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Hollywood & entertainment industry news
'Dawn of the Planet of the Apes' debuts atop Chinese box office

"Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" ruled the mainland Chinese box office last week, swinging to $44.8 million in its first weekend of release and notching the second-biggest opening of any imported film this year behind only "Transformers: Age of Extinction."

Despite opening seven weeks after its stateside debut, "Apes" has already blown past the previous installment of the 20th Century Fox franchise, which earned a total of $31.6 million after opening in October 2011, according to figures from film industry consulting firm Artisan Gateway.

In second place in the seven days ending Sunday was "The Four 3," a martial arts film from Gordon Chan, which took in $13.4 million for the week, bringing its total gross to nearly $30.2 million.

DreamWorks Animation's "How to Train Your Dragon 2" added $11.9 million to its mainland tally, bringing its cumulative take in the territory to nearly $63.4 million.

The No. 4 spot went to the Hong Kong real estate comedy "Temporary Family," with $6.9 million...

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Hollywood's summer slate elicits a collective yawn from filmgoers

Not even superheroes could save Hollywood this summer.

The movie industry suffered its worst May-to-Labor Day season since 1997, after adjusting for inflation. U.S. ticket sales dropped 15% compared with last summer. It was a disappointment for an industry that had hoped movies with giant robots, mutants and talking apes would follow up last year's stellar season with another blockbuster summer.

Even more telling, no film crossed the $300-million mark domestically for the first time since 2001. That's despite much-hyped releases such as 20th Century Fox's "X-Men: Days of Future Past," Paramount Pictures' "Transformers: Age of Extinction" and Sony Pictures' "The Amazing Spider-Man 2."

The lack of breakout hits hurt the prospects for other movies. Hollywood is a momentum-driven business. Big hits help draw in filmgoers, who then see trailers that bring them back the next week. That was not the case this summer.

At least several other factors were to blame as well. Studios bet on...

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KFWB switching to all-sports format as AM radio fights for survival

AM radio, the scratchy medium that long ago aired Franklin Delano Roosevelt's fireside chats, soap operas and the day's most popular music, is trying to avoid becoming static.

Across the country, stations are vying to hold on to listeners as AM radio's audience slowly dwindles. The persistent technology, long dwarfed by FM, has weathered more recent threats including satellite and Internet radio. It is also contending with a new assault from smartphones.

How long before AM radio disappears, if ever, is anybody's guess. But analysts say the fight for relevance is playing out in Los Angeles, the nation's largest radio market by revenue. And KFWB-AM (980), a station founded by movie studio mogul Sam Warner back before the golden age of radio, might be in the thick of it.

After 46 years of presenting news and talk, the veteran station of the AM dial is switching to an all-sports format to rev up its paltry ratings. The change comes after years of erosion for an institution that once was...

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Box office: 'Guardians' wins again, becomes No. 1 movie of year

Perhaps as a sign this summer couldn’t be over soon enough for Hollywood, the top three positions at the box office for the weekend were exactly the same as last week: “Guardians of the Galaxy” continued its surprising run with an estimated three-day draw of $16.3 million, and with a cumulative total of $274.6 million in the U.S. and Canada through Sunday, the film became the top box-office draw not only of the summer but of the year so far, passing “Captain America: The Winter Solider.”

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” continued its surprising showing as well, bringing in an estimated $11.8 million in its fourth weekend for a cumulative total of $162.4 million.

In its second weekend of release, the teen romantic drama “If I Stay” brought in an estimated $9.3 million for a new total of $29.8 million.

The best new opener of the weekend was the low-budget horror thriller “As Above, So Below” in the fourth spot, bringing in an estimated $8.3 million. In its third week, “Let’s Be Cops” came...

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Are film tax credits cost effective?

Tired of seeing Hollywood take its business elsewhere, California is moving to triple tax subsidies for film and TV productions, boosting incentives to $330 million annually and making the state competitive with New York, Georgia and other states that are courting the entertainment industry with ever-richer incentives.

The action is widely seen as necessary to stop thousands of jobs from leaving Southern California, where most studios and production companies are based and would prefer to work if costs are roughly equivalent.

Yet it comes amid growing national debate about the value of film tax breaks and whether they create new jobs, or merely shift work from one place to another. Some fear California's move may, in fact, escalate a bidding war among states eager to claim a share of the world's most glamorous industry.

While these tax credits have been highly effective at luring production out of California, their long-term economic benefits have been questioned by several independent...

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Bill to triple California film tax credits clears the Legislature

A bill that would more than triple funding for California's film and TV tax credit program was overwhelmingly approved by the state Senate and Assembly on Friday.

The Senate, as expected, on Friday approved by a 32-to-2 vote legislation that would increase funding for the state's film incentives to $330 million a year for five years, a substantial boost from the $100 million a year currently allocated under the film program.

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FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post said the legislation would increase incentive funding to $330 million over five years. The bill would increase it to $330 million a year for five years.

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The bill also cleared the Assembly by a 72-to-0 vote.

The vote comes two days after Gov. Jerry Brown signaled his support for the bill as part of a last-minute compromise hashed out with the state's legislative leaders.

The law is intended to make California more competitive with rival states such as New York, Georgia and Louisiana that have...

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'As Above, So Below' grosses $470,000 in Thursday night showings

It's another slow start to the Labor Day weekend at the box office.

Legendary Pictures' thriller "As Above, So Below" grossed $470,000 in Thursday night showings. Meanwhile, the Pierce Brosnan action film "The November Man" has grossed $1.695 million since its release on Wednesday. 

Both weekend newcomers are expected to gross $8 million to $11 million each over the four-day weekend, according to people who have seen pre-release audience surveys.

The films will likely trail behind Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy," the Michael Bay-produced "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" and young adult tearjerker "If I Stay."

Released by Universal Pictures, "As Above, So Below" follows a team of explorers as they venture into the catacombs beneath the streets of Paris. As of Friday, the film had notched a 31% on the fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.

Based on the novel "There Are No Spies" by Bill Granger, "The November Man" follows former CIA agent Peter Devereaux (Pierce Brosnan) after he leaves...

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Turner management shake-up continues with Michael Wright exit

The Turner Broadcasting shake-up continues with the departure of Michael Wright, president of programming for the popular channels TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies.

Wright plans to remain on the job for a few weeks during a search for his successor, an executive familiar with his plans who asked not to be identified said late Thursday.

He is the second high-ranking Turner programming executive to leave this year. In April, Steve Koonin, the head of Turner Entertainment Networks, left the company to become chief executive of the Atlanta Hawks professional basketball team.

Wright has been with Turner more than a decade. He is credited with being a key member of the programming team that put TNT and TBS on the map with such popular and critically acclaimed original dramas as "The Closer," "Falling Skies" and "Men of a Certain Age." 

He helped woo late night comedian Conan O'Brien to TBS after O'Brien's high-profile exit from NBC.

The departures of Wright and Koonin underscore management...

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TV ratings: 'America's Got Talent' wins the night in total viewers

A round of eliminations and a performance by Ariana Grande helped "America's Got Talent" stay on top of the ratings on Wednesday.

The Nick Cannon-hosted show, which drew in 9.2 million viewers overall, earned a rating of 1.8 in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic, according to Nielsen.

NBC, which also aired "Taxi Brooklyn," won the night in total viewership, averaging 6.4 million viewers. 

Meanwhile, with a rating of 1.5, CBS was the most-viewed network in the key demo. Roughly 6 million people tuned in to the network.

CBS' privacy-deprivation reality show "Big Brother" was the most-watched program among the key demo with a solid rating of 2.3. With about 6.7 million viewers, the show was the second-most-watched program of the night.

Also on the network, the Halle Berry sci-fi series "Extant" was up 10% from last week with a rating of 1.1 in the key demo. The show was the third-most-watched program of the night with roughly 5.7 million viewers. 

Two back-to-back reruns of...

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California to hike film tax credits

It's been a slow summer at the box office, but Hollywood got a genuine blockbuster Wednesday — a $330-million deal that will help subsidize film and TV production in California for the next five years.

In a last-minute compromise reached Wednesday, Gov. Jerry Brown said he would approve legislation that would more than triple the annual tax credits available for movies and TV shows produced in California. The bill is aimed at reversing the loss of location shoots to other states that offer rich incentives to studios and producers.

Backers originally sought $400 million in tax credits over four years. Brown cut that by $70 million annually, but agreed to extend the program for one additional year.

Currently, California allows $100 million in annual credits, a fourth of what New York offers.

"This law will make key improvements in our film and television tax credit program and put thousands of Californians to work," Brown said in a statement, indicating he will sign the bill pending its...

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'Guardians' likely to top 'The November Man,' 'As Above, So Below'

The box office's summer slump is likely to continue into Labor Day weekend, as the two newcomers -- "The November Man" and "As Above, So Below" -- are not expected to deliver huge numbers.

Heading into the four-day holiday weekend, pre-release audience surveys indicate that both could fail to outshine Marvel's August blockbuster "Guardians of the Galaxy" as it enters in fifth week in release. The movie based on the comic book cult favorite -- also the top film last weekend -- could add an additional $14 million to its total through Monday. 

"Guardians," now the summer's highest-grossing movie domestically, has taken in $255.2 million to date in the U.S. and Canada. Worldwide, it has crossed the $500-million mark.

Both "The November Man" and "As Above, So Below" are expected to gross $9 million to $11 million over the four-day weekend, making it a tight race for No. 2.

"The November Man," which cost about $15 million to make, opened in about 2,750 theaters Wednesday. Relativity...

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Gov. Brown OKs tripling state film tax-credit funding to $330 million

California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed off on a deal that would more than triple funding for California's film and TV tax-credit program.

The compromise would increase funding to $330 million a year over the next five years. While that falls short of the $400 million annually sought by backers, the amount is substantially more than the $100 million that the state currently allocates.

“This law will make key improvements in our Film and Television Tax Credit Program and put thousands of Californians to work,” Brown said.

AB 1839 also would allow more projects to qualify, including new network television dramas and big-budget studio movies, and would provide additional incentives for projects that shoot in California cities other than Los Angeles.

It would also scrap a controversial lottery system used to divvy up funds. Instead, tax credits would be allocated based on how many jobs projects would create.

The deal, which is expected to be approved by the Senate this week, was the result...

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