- - Sunday, March 4, 2012

DVD rental deal reached between Redbox, Universal

Cut-rate rental DVD kiosk operator Redbox said Thursday it has renewed a deal to carry movies made by Universal Pictures 28 days after discs are made available for sale.

The deal extends through August 2014, a pact first made in April 2010, the Associated Press reports.

Hollywood studios have differing views of how long Redbox, a subsidiary of Coinstar Inc., must wait after discs are released for sale. Some worry consumers will rent instead of buying discs, which cuts into profits, while other studios don’t see a negative impact from renting and selling at the same time.

Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. said in January it would not sell Redbox discs for rental until 56 days after they are released for sale, doubling the delay from a previous deal in a bid to encourage purchases.

But Redbox has been able to get the discs through other sources, so now Warner Bros.’ titles are available seven days after release.

Comcast Corp.’s Universal and News Corp.’s 20th Century Fox sell discs to Redbox at a discount as long as the kiosk operator waits 28 days after their release for sale.

Sony Corp., the Walt Disney Co., Viacom Inc.’s Paramount and Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. all provide Redbox with discs at a discount the same day they are released for sale.

‘American Idol’ hopefuls down to 13 singers

“American Idol” is down to the top 13 singers.

Smooth 21-year-old pawnshop worker Phillip Phillips of Leesburg, Ga., quirky 22-year-old nonprofit organizer Heejun Han of New York, and spunky 18-year-old country crooner Skylar Laine, from Brandon, Miss., were among the finalists revealed Thursday on the Fox singing contest. According to the Associated Press, they and seven others received the most viewer votes after the 13 male semifinalists performed Tuesday and the 12 female semifinalists sang Wednesday.

The other viewer-selected finalists included soothing 18-year-old vocalist Hollie Cavanaugh, of McKinney, Texas; 20-year-old alt-rock musician Colton Dixon, of Murfreesboro, Tenn.; 25-year-old “gentle giant” Jermaine Jones, of Pine Hill, N.J.; booming 19-year-old student Joshua Ledet, of Westlake, La.; soaring 16-year-old vocalist Shannon Magrane, of Tampa, Fla.; 16-year-old Jessica Sanchez, of San Diego; and soulful 28-year-old teacher Elise Testone, of Charleston, S.C.

Once the fan favorites were revealed, the show’s panel picked five remaining semifinalists to deliver a last-chance tune in hopes of becoming one of the judges’ “wild-card” selections. The judges ultimately chose 17-year-old student Deandre Brackensick, of San Jose, Calif.; 19-year-old receptionist Jeremy Rosado, of Valrico, Fla.; and 26-year-old disc jockey Erika Van Pelt, of South Kingstown, R.I., to be among the top 13.

The finalists will return to the stage Wednesday for the first round of season 11’s finals. “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest announced Thursday that the male singers would perform Stevie Wonder songs, while the female contestants would pay tribute to Whitney Houston.

Hamm blames ‘billionaires’ for long ‘Mad Men’ hiatus

After a long absence, “Mad Men” finally will return for a fifth season March 25 — a date marked on the calendars of the show’s superfans as they wait with anticipation to find out what happens next in the messy, sophisticated saga of Don Draper and company.

In a guest appearance on Thursday’s “Late Show With David Letterman,” series star Jon Hamm — back on the promotional circuit for the AMC show — blamed billionaire-on-billionaire squabbles for the 17-month delay. (The season-four finale aired in October 2010.)

“These decisions get made … at a much higher pay grade than I’m allowed to partake in,” Mr. Hamm explained to Mr. Letterman. “I’ve described it thusly, and I’ve gotten in trouble, so I’ll do it again the same way: When billionaires fight, it takes a lot longer to, like, settle. So we had some very wealthy people determining how long we would be off the air.”

Series creator Matthew Weiner teased the new installment in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter.

“The year doesn’t really mean anything,” Mr. Weiner said of the ‘60s-set drama. “It doesn’t. I’m not doing a history lesson. The thing that I’m excited about is I wanted to give people a big helping. I wanted a two-hour premiere. It’s a ‘Mad Men’ movie - I don’t think anyone’s going to think it’s two episodes spliced together. There is a story that starts in the middle of it [but otherwise] it’s one story. The beginning and the ending are related to each other.”

The premiere, written by Mr. Weiner and directed by Jennifer Getzinger, will kick off at 9 p.m. March 25. The following week’s episode, returning to its regular 10 p.m. time slot, marks Mr. Hamm’s directorial debut.

Janet Jackson declines spot on ‘X Factor’ panel

Janet Jackson, Pink, Katy Perry, Fergie, Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne - the reported candidates for the two open judges’ spots on Fox’s “The X Factor” keep rolling in. But one of those artists apparently isn’t interested: Miss Jackson has taken herself out of the running.

The singer told TheInsider.com that she’s “very flattered that ‘X Factor’ let me know that I was being considered for next season, but it just wouldn’t be possible.”

Miss Jackson said previous commitments to her “Number Ones — Up Close and Personal” tour and Lionsgate (which produced her 2010 film, Tyler Perry’s “For Colored Girls”) keep her from accepting a TV gig at this time.

Although the artist’s reps told the site she never took any meetings to discuss joining “X Factor,” the Hollywood Reporter’s sources said she was in very early talks about joining the show in mid-February. She also tiptoed around the idea when she appeared on Anderson Cooper’s daytime show, “Anderson,” on Feb. 20.

During a press call last week, Simon Cowell said he would be taking meetings during the next few weeks with artists who have expressed interest in the positions formerly held by Paula Abdul and Nicole Scherzinger. He also said the series will replace host Steve Jones with two hosts in season two - a male and a female.

Compiled from Web and wire service reports.

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