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Monday, February 27, 2006

Two from the Times: News Corp.'s cell phone content; What to make of Oscar

- Laura Holson writes about Mobizzo, News Corp.'s content studio for cell phones, in today's NY Times:

    In what is the boldest venture yet by an established media company to insinuate itself into millions of cellphones, the News Corporation has created a mobile entertainment store called Mobizzo and a production studio to focus exclusively on developing cellphone entertainment in much the same way that 20th Century Fox creates movies and television.

    What they came up with seems simple: text alerts from a gossip column in a British tabloid, The Sun, and kung fu movie posters and yoga and meditation music from the Star media group in Hong Kong.

    But News Corporation executives hope that the store, which is to make its debut today, will capitalize on a nascent but rapidly growing appetite for video, graphics and music on cellphones.

- David Carr writes about the tension between the giant blockbusters that generate big returns for Hollywood studios and the smaller films (all profitable by now, I'd bet) nominated for Oscars this year:

    The real significance of this year's nominees is that Hollywood is placing bets all over the table to stay in business. At a time when everything is up for grabs — distribution, technology, platform — studios are morphing and eliding as fast as they can to hang onto their big, fat corner of the entertainment dollar, even if that means playing small.

    IT just so happened that, in 2005, small worked. If the Academy was tough on Hollywood-as-usual, audiences were brutal, snubbing Oscar-ready studio films — like "The New World," "Cinderella Man," and "Memoirs of a Geisha" — that turned out to be gorgeous, empty vessels in favor of movies that attack serious issues with grit and idiosyncrasy. (In that sense, Jon Stewart seems to be a pitch-perfect choice as host of this year's affair.)

    "This year, the industry did not manage to make a lot of big, expensive movies that the Academy liked," said Tom Pollack, a veteran producer at the Montecito Picture Company. "That may not be true next year."

    The success of this year's group of serious films made for adults means that directors and producers who want to make something besides a sequel about a comic book character will have an easier time getting a meeting and even financing.

    But for all the self-congratulation on the podium next week, this year's class of earnest films have limited value in the global marketplace. All that gravitas will not have much value in a world where the attention span of a 15-year-old on an opening weekend still rules. Niche films are grand but studios still need the next "Lord of the Batman Chronicles" to feed the beast, because studios find more than half their revenue outside the domestic market.