TV & VIDEO
'Lion King' Going Fast: Consumers have plunked down nearly $350 million for the video version of "The Lion King" since it went on sale last Tuesday, Walt Disney Home Video announced Monday. A Disney press release said the video "shattered all retail sales records for any single product in history, entertainment or otherwise." More than 20 million copies of "The Lion King" were scooped up by North American buyers, with Tuesday's tally exceeding the combined first-day sales of Disney's "Snow White," "Aladdin" and "Beauty and the Beast," the industry's current top three sales champs, according to the distributor, Buena Vista Home Video Inc. "The Lion King" is also the all-time No. 2-grossing film, having picked up more than $740 million worldwide at box offices and has been nominated for four Academy Awards. Last week, Elton John received a male pop vocal Grammy for his "Lion King" soundtrack song, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight." The film's licensed merchandise sales have topped $1 billion, Disney said.
The Gingrich Solution: House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), along with other Republicans, would like to eliminate federal funding for the Corp. for Public Broadcasting. But Gingrich says he wants to see public broadcasting survive. "It's one-sided, but it's not a bad thing to have," he explained. To demonstrate his support, he videotaped a fund-raising pitch for Atlanta's WPBA-TV Saturday and, challenging viewers to match him, said he would donate $2,000 a year for five years. "If everyone writing letters to Congress about public TV matched me, they'd have the money they need," he said later. "I think we can find a way to keep public broadcasting without draining the taxpayer."
Going Legit: A number of television actors, writers, producers and directors will join forces for "We Interrupt This Program," a March 16-18 showcase of nine new plays at West Hollywood's Tiffany Theatre benefiting the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Participants include director Garry Marshall, "Saturday Night Live" alumni Laraine Newman and Julia Sweeney; Thomas Calabro and Doug Savant of "Melrose Place"; Dan Castellaneta of "The Simpsons," and Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow of "Friends." The plays are scripted by writers from such shows as "Beverly Hills, 90210," "Grace Under Fire," "Murphy Brown," "Melrose Place" and "My So-Called Life."
American in Paris: American conductor James Conlon, music director of Cologne's opera company and orchestra, was named music adviser of the Paris Opera Monday. He replaces Myung-Whun Chung, but will not assume the title of his predecessor, who was music director at the time of his firing last year. Conlon, 44, attended the Juilliard School of Music. He has conducted both the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, and also was musical director of the Rotterdam Orchestra. He will retain his opera and orchestra posts in Cologne. Hughes Gall, the Paris Opera's deputy director, said Conlon's contract runs until 2001. Chung, who was popular with musicians and French critics, was fired in August for refusing to renegotiate a contract. Opera officials wanted to shorten his contract, freeze his salary and take away his artistic control.
Philharmonic Pinch-Hitter: Grant Gershon, recently named assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic--effective next season--will conduct the orchestra this week in four regular subscription concerts in the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion while scheduled guest conductor Lawrence Foster is out ill. The agenda includes the world premiere of Rand Steiger's "The Burgess Shale," a work commissioned by the Philharmonic. Concerts are Thursday and Saturday nights at 8, Friday at 1:30 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. A Philharmonic spokesperson said Foster is expected to conduct a week's programs beginning March 17.
Tribute to Elvis: Nunc hic aut numquam . That's Latin for "It's Now or Never," and it's one of the songs included on an unusual disc released to mark Elvis' recent 60th birthday. Jukka Ammondt, a university professor who put out the compact disc with Finland's Eurovision choir, said the idea came to him in a dream. "Latin is an eternal language, so what better way to immortalize a legend?" he said. In addition to "It's Now or Never," the CD includes: "I Surrender" ("Nunc aeternitatis"); "Can't Help Falling in Love" ("Non adamare non possum") and "Love Me Tender" ("Tenere me ama").
British composer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has bought the rights to the classic Hollywood musical "A Star Is Born" from Warner Bros. and plans to take it to London's West End and Broadway, his spokesman said Monday. . . . Kathy Quattrone, PBS' vice president of programming, will become acting head of the National Program Service on Friday, when Jennifer Lawson's resignation takes effect. . . . KNBC-TV Channel 4 news reporter Beverly White has been elected president of the Black Journalists Assn. of Southern California for a two-year term.