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Cirque du Soleil performance set for Academy Awards

Aerialists, acrobats and contortionists are among the guests at this year's Academy Awards.

Telecast producers Don Mischer and Brian Grazer say they've invited Cirque du Soleil to perform during the Oscar show, the Associated Press reports.

The three-minute performance will be among the international troupe's biggest yet, said Cirque du Soleil special events director Yasmine Khalil, featuring more than 50 artists. Most Cirque shows employ 75 to 80 artists over two hours, she said.

Cirque du Soleil has a show in residence at the Kodak Theatre, where the Oscars will be presented on Sunday, but the performance planned for the awards telecast is "unique for this one evening" and not taken from any of the troupe's 22 productions playing around the world.

Performers from those shows, however, are heading to Hollywood. Ms. Khalil said artists from Japan and Russia are flying in to participate in the Academy Awards segment.

Ms. Khalil wouldn't reveal any specifics about the performance other than to say "the theme is very much in line with paying tribute to the movie-theater experience" and different from "Iris," Cirque's regular show at the Kodak Theater, which is billed as "a journey into the world of cinema."

Like "Iris," the music for the troupe's Oscar performance was composed by Danny Elfman.

MSNBC drops Buchanan after four-month suspension

MSNBC dropped conservative commentator Pat Buchanan on Thursday, four months after suspending him following the publication of his latest book.

The book "Suicide of a Superpower" contained chapters titled "The End of White America" and "The Death of Christian America." Critics called the book racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic, charges Mr. Buchanan denied.

MSNBC President Phil Griffin said last month that he didn't think Mr. Buchanan's book "should be part of the national dialogue, much less part of the dialogue on MSNBC."

The network said on Thursday that "after 10 years, we have decided to part ways with Pat Buchanan. We wish him well."

Mr. Buchanan, in a column posted on Thursday, called the decision "an undeniable victory for the blacklisters."

The former GOP candidate had seemed increasingly out of place on MSNBC as it emphasized liberal commentary in recent years. But he kept a regular presence, even forging an unlikely chemistry with talk show host Rachel Maddow despite disagreeing on most issues.

Mr. Buchanan wrote that advocacy groups like Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League brand people as racists or anti-Semites if they dare "to venture outside the narrow corral in which they seek to confine debate." They seek to silence and censor dissent while proclaiming devotion to the First Amendment, he said.

The liberal media watchdog Media Matters for America said MSNBC made the right decision in letting Mr. Buchanan go.

The book "was not his first, nor his worst offense," said Ari Rabin-Havt, executive vice president of Media Matters. "He's been making the same racially insensitive, anti-Semitic and homophobic statements for the past 50 years."

'General Hospital' actress who grew up on set leaving

Longtime viewers of "General Hospital" have watched Kimberly McCullough grow up. She originated the role of Robin Scorpio as a child in 1985 and will leave the show this month.

The actress first appeared in the ABC soap opera at 7 years old as the precocious Robin. In the soap genre, child characters tend to inexplicably age rapidly (referred to by fans as soap opera rapid aging syndrome, or SORAS) and get recast by older actors to give them juicer story lines. The "General Hospital" producers, though, not only let Miss McCullough age on camera but gave her wiggle room to come and go, allowing her to attend New York University.

The portrayal earned Miss McCullough two Daytime Emmy Awards and critical acclaim for a plot line in which her character's boyfriend, Stone, died of AIDS. Around that time, Robin also discovered she was HIV-positive.

While recently attending a women's directing program at the American Film Institute, Miss McCullough, now 33, said in an interview that she realized it was time to pursue a dream to direct full time.

"General Hospital" is pulling out all the stops for the character's goodbye. It's bringing back veteran actors Finola Hughes and Tristan Rogers, who play her parents, Anna and Robert. Rick Springfield also will return as the father of Robin's husband.

Online media giants plan their own ad presentations

Ahead of broadcast TV networks' traditional upfront May advertising presentations in New York that show off their fall season schedule, online media giants will hold a similar two-week event in April dubbed Digital Content New Fronts to also tout their content lineup and advertising opportunities, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In a challenge to television, the lineup will include Google and its YouTube video site, Yahoo, AOL, online video venture Hulu and Microsoft, with each company taking a different day to present advertisers with marketing opportunities and future video programming, the paper said. Online media giants hope the combined effort will persuade marketers to buy online ad packages early and help increase online spending's ad market share.

"We need to show there is a new game in town," said Colin Kinsella, CEO of the North America operations of ad agency Digitas, which came up with the idea for the event.

Television advertising spending amounted to $60.7 billion last year, according to research firm eMarketer. Online video ad spending in the U.S. reached only $2.02 billion, but that was up 55 percent from 2010, the Journal highlighted.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.

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