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Black Monday



New Line Cinema might be continuing as a label, but it disappeared as a studio Monday. That's the day parent Time Warner laid off about 450 New York- and L.A.-based employees (a figure that is expected to grow), trimming the staff at Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne's former baby to a slim 40 or 50 who will operate under new boss Toby Emmerich. Warners officially begins handling New Line's domestic distribution April 25 with the release of stoner comedy "Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay."

Blake Wednesday



Sony Pictures locked up another executive this week, extending vice chairman Jeff Blake "right through the Apocalypse," as he put it. And if you believe the Mayan calendar — or the Roland Emmerich pic the studio has in preproduction — he's right. Blake's new deal extends his contract through 2012, just like boss Michael Lynton's. Other team Sony members wrapped up for the foreseeable future include SPE co-chairman Amy Pascal (2011), Columbia co-presidents Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach (2011) and Screen Gems boss Clint Culpepper (2012).

Game on



And so it begins. With its contract set to expire June 30, SAG sat down across from producers Tuesday to begin two weeks of what are expected to be intense talks. The talking points are familiar — new-media residuals, more money for DVDs — but the circumstances are not. The talks mark the first time in history that SAG has negotiated without AFTRA at its side. A last-ditch attempt to present a united front at the bargaining table was shot down Monday.

High stakes



Would a vampire analogy be out of line here? Maybe so, but opponents are finding that Silvio Berlusconi simply does not stay dead. The Mediaset mogul, abandoned on the roadside of Italian politics just two years ago, is once again prime minister. That makes four times on top for the billionaire, who beat out RomaCinemaFest founder Walter Veltroni in a showbiz showdown. Hard to say what it means for the Italian media landscape this early, but analysts think we'll at least see government ad buys begin shifting from pubcaster RAI to Berlusconi's private nets.

The bookish types



ABC Studios and Lifetime each got in bed with authors this week, with ABC signing novelist Jennifer Weiner to a two-year overall deal and Lifetime pacting with Patricia Cornwell, who will adapt a pair of her books into telefilms. Weiner's seven-figure deal, a bit of a surprise in the post-strike environment, will see the author create and executive produce series projects. ... Meanwhile, on the feature side, Tucker Max has been tapped to adapt his best-seller, "I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell," for helmer Bob Gosse and Pinkslip Pictures.

Closing thoughts



Barry Levinson's "What Just Happened?" will have closing-night honors at next month's Festival de Cannes. The comedy, which stars Robert De Niro as an embattled Hollywood producer, features a climactic scene that takes place at the festival.

End credits



Demi Moore is getting her indie on with roles opposite Parker Posey in Mitchell Lich-tenstein's "Happy Tears" and Woody Harrelson in Snoot Entertainment's "Buraku." ... Shia LaBeouf is smartening up in Universal thriller "Dark Fields." ... Milla Jovovich is headed to Alaska for Gold Circle Films' "The 4th Kind."
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