'07's multiple personalities



Technology -- and coming to grips with it -- was the biggest Hollywood story in 2007.

A-list stars, TV hits and mega-selling music acts took a back seat to iPods, downloads, viral videos and the headaches that came with the breakthrough software, applications and devices.

The WGA and studios couldn't agree on how to slice up the new-media pie -- large parts of which remain half-baked -- and 12,000 writers guild members took to the picket line to shut down TV and film production.

Apple bowed its iPhone and rivals followed, which brought music and video downloads to young ears and sent shivers up the collective spines of TV and film chieftains who saw their traditional audiences eroding. Movie ticket sales and DVD rentals sputtered as did TV ratings and CD sales. And while the media companies fretted about their content illegally finding its way onto file-sharing sites, user-generated videos and music dominated YouTube and its rivals. Content creators increasingly connected directly with audiences, essentially cutting the media giants out of the deal.

Conglomerates and artists tried to find their way in the new-media maze. Networks streamed episodes of "Desperate Housewives" and other hit shows for free, and hot alternative rockers Radiohead let online buyers pay whatever they wanted for their album. Paramount debuted a feature film on the Web.

There were some old-fashioned success stories. Johnny Depp and Disney racked up mega-doubloons with the third "Pirates of the Caribbean," "At World's End." "American Idol" posted record numbers and crowned its youngest winner. And a documentary -- Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" -- won an Oscar, helped land the former vice president the Nobel Prize and pushed global warming into the public consciousness.

Much of the media, however, focused on tales of Britney Spears' party bingeing and Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan landing in the slammer. There was film of it all, not just at 11, but 24/7, thanks to the emergence of relentless celebrity Web sites like TMZ.com.

It was hello to Amy Winehouse, Miley "Hannah Montana" Cyrus, Shia LaBeouf, Helio Castroneves and Rihanna and goodbye to Jack Valenti, Sidney Sheldon, Merv Griffin, Roger King, Robert Goulet, Beverly Sills, Luciano Pavarotti and Tony Soprano.

Now it's hello 2008, goodbye 2007.


A bomb scare in Boston turns out to be a misguided marketing ploy by Turner Broadcasting. Marketers for Cartoon Network's animated TV series "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" place electronic light boards with images of a Mooninite -- an outer-space character -- along bridges and by the Charles River. When authorities mistake the promotion for improvised explosive devices, the campaign is shut down, the network is required to pay $2 million in fines and CEO Jim Samples steps down.

Also: James Cameron agrees to direct "Avatar," his first dramatic feature since "Titanic," for Fox. ... Gail Berman and Allison Shearmur exit Paramount as Brad Grey begins to restructure the studio. Soon after, Berman teams with former Yahoo (and ABC) media guru Lloyd Braun in a production venture. ... JPMorgan helps Joe Roth's Revolution stay afloat with a $750 million recapitalization. ... Microsoft rolls out its Windows Vista operating system to the public, which responds with a collective shrug.


At the 79th Annual Academy Awards, five-time bridesmaid Martin Scorsese takes home the best director Oscar for his work on best picture winner "The Departed." Helen Mirren and Forest Whitaker take the top acting prizes and Ellen DeGeneres becomes the first openly gay person to host the show.

Also: Dixie Chicks sweep at the Grammys with wins for top album, record and song of the year for "Not Ready to Make Nice." ... Russell Crowe signs on for a Robin Hood tale at Universal. ... Jeff Zucker is named CEO of NBC Universal, replacing Bob Wright. ... Satellite radio pioneers Sirius and XM agree to merge to create a $13 billion entity, and Sirius CEO Mel Karmazin is tapped to head the entity. ... Anna Nicole Smith is found dead of a drug overdose in Hollywood, Fla.


Pop princess-turned-pop tart Spears shaves her head inside a Los Angeles hair salon. It's one of the many incidents -- rehab stints, over-the-top partying and the loss of custody rights to her son -- that keep her in the headlines for months. In a return to performing at the MTV Video Music Awards, Spears bombs, and sales of her well-reviewed album, "Blackout," fail to match previous efforts.

Also: Warner Bros.' Spartan action film "300" posts a $70 million bow, the largest ever in March. ... "Idol" contestant Sanjaya Malakar's song stylings -- which cause some young audience members to cry uncontrollably -- prove a media bonanza for Fox, but he fails to make the finals.


CBS fires Don Imus from his highly rated New York radio show after his racially charged comments defaming the Rutgers University women's basketball team. Imus later is rehired by Citadel Radio's WABC with a $5 million annual paycheck.

Also: Valenti, who during his 38-year run as head of the MPAA oversaw the death of the studio system and the production code, dies at 85. ... Former Paramount executive Rob Friedman and Summit Entertainment CEO Patrick Wachsberger receive $1 billion in funding from Merrill Lynch and others to relaunch the indie outfit.


Depp continues to shiver boxoffice timbers with his role as Captain Jack Sparrow in Disney's third "Pirates of the Caribbean" installment. "At World's End" is the summer's blockbuster hit and goes on to gross $960 million worldwide.

Also: Romanian director Cristian Mungiu wins the Festival de Cannes' top prize for "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," a film about illegal abortion. ... Rosie O'Donnell and conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck trade barbs in a 10-minute catfight on "The View" and O'Donnell resigns days later. ... Jordin Sparks, 17, becomes the youngest winner in "Idol" history. ... The Police celebrate the band's 30th anniversary with a reunion tour that becomes the year's top-grossing stadium act.


Creator David Chase and HBO whack "The Sopranos" after eight years. The final episode features a fade-to-black ending that many viewers think is a cable malfunction. Some critics suggest that the finale's ambiguous ending is designed to allow the mob drama to morph into a feature film.

Also: Apple releases its iPhone -- a camera, computer, phone and MP3 player all in one. It later is named Time magazine's Invention of the Year and sells 270,000 units in its first 30 hours of launch. ... "Coast of Utopia" is named best play and "Spring Awakening" best musical at the 61st Tonys. ... Host Bob Barker airs his last episode of "The Price Is Right" on CBS and Drew Carey is tapped to replace him. ... Bill Nelson takes over at HBO, replacing Chris Albrecht, who resigns after assaulting a female companion. ... Terry Semel exits Yahoo and is replaced by co-founder Jerry Yang, considered more tech-savvy.


Rock shows it cares. A concert to honor the memory of Princess Diana is held at Britain's Wembley Stadium featuring Elton John, Kanye West, Rod Stewart and Fergie. The concert, put together by Diana's sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, is broadcast to 500 million homes in 140 countries. Two weeks later, Live Earth concerts are held as part of a three-year campaign to combat climate change. The concerts unite more than 150 musical acts in nine major cities and are beamed to a mass global audience through TV, radio and the Internet.
Also: J.K. Rowling releases the final installment in her Harry Potter franchise, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." The four films taken from the series are among the highest-grossing of all time. ... Fox's "The Simpsons Movie" grosses $30.7 million during its opening day. ... Former NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly is named head of Fox Entertainment and Peter Liguori is upped to chairman.


Paramount's overseas distribution arm tops $1 billion at the foreign boxoffice, marking the first time that all six MPA companies cross that threshold in the same year. Paramount Pictures International joins Sony, Warner Bros., Disney, Universal and Fox. Par's foreign fortunes were driven by "Shrek the Third" and "Transformers."

Also: Raunchy comedy "Superbad," directed by Judd Apatow, tops the domestic boxoffice with $31 million. The film and another Apatow summer hit, "Knocked Up," eventually gross more than $300 million at U.S. theaters. ... An arbitrator clears ICM co-president Ed Limato to exit and take his A-list clients with him to WMA. ... ESPN gets record TV ratings for David Beckham's debut with the Los Angeles Galaxy soccer team.


News Corp. topper Rupert Murdoch seemed like a pretty wired guy when his company bought MySpace a couple of years ago. But he goes old school this year, paying more than $9 billion to acquire Dow Jones and its flagship newspaper, the Wall Street Journal. Murdoch, who early on built his media empire by owning staunchly conservative papers, vows to stay out of the Journal newsroom.

Also: NBC's "30 Rock" and HBO's "Sopranos" are named best comedy and drama, respectively, at the Emmys. ... Tenor Pavarotti dies of pancreatic cancer. ... Microsoft's video game "Halo 3" generates $170 million in its first 24 hours of release. ... The 4-year-old murder case against music producer Phil Spector is declared a mistrial after the jury comes back with 10 votes for guilty and two for not guilty. ... Tensions between Paramount and DreamWorks co-founders Steven Spielberg and David Geffen mount when Paramount parent Viacom's CEO Philippe Dauman calls their potential exit "completely immaterial."


When Geffen, along with a couple of other Los Angeles billionaires, comes up short in a bid to buy the Los Angeles Times from Tribune, it opens the way for Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell to swoop in and buy the conglomerate for $8.2 billion. Zell plans to sell the Chicago Cubs but wants to keep Tribune's TV stations and newspapers, which put the onus on the FCC to bless the deal. It does, but the process also puts a new spotlight on the always contentious cross-ownership debate.

Also: NBC buys the Oxygen cable network for $925 million. ... Warren Beatty receives the American Film Institute's Lifetime Achievement Award. ... Radiohead releases its "In Rainbows" album online and lets consumers pay whatever they want. ... Sony Pictures Entertainment extends the pact of Michael Lynton through 2012. ... A flap over re-edited footage in a promotion for the documentary "A Year With the Queen" costs the job of BBC1 head Peter Fincham.


Showbiz is feeling major labor pains. When no deal is reached in a marathon bargaining session Nov. 4, the WGA goes on strike against Hollywood's film and TV studios, shutting down production on numerous TV shows. Thousands of guild members take to picket lines in New York and Los Angeles. One week later, Broadway goes dark as 3,000 stagehands go on strike over staffing issues. That strike lasts 19 days and costs New York more than $30 million.

Also: Maverick book publisher Judith Regan, fired by HarperCollins last year after her O.J. Simpson book was scrapped, files a $100 million lawsuit against her former employers accusing them of defamation. ... Brazilian race car driver Castroneves beats Spice Girl Melanie Brown to win Season 5 of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." ... Carrie Underwood is named female vocalist of the year at the Country Music Awards.


The writers and studios return to the bargaining table for four consecutive days of talks, which break off amid finger-pointing on both sides. The studios say they won't return until the WGA drops several demands. The writers refuse, and file unfair labor practice charges. The studios, meanwhile, set their sights on talks with the DGA, while the writers keep marching. Los Angeles County economists estimate the strike already has cost the region $340 million.
Also: Led Zeppelin holds a reunion concert at London's 02 Arena. ... Paramount bows "Jackass 2.5" on the Internet. ... Studio exec/agency founder Freddie Fields dies at 84. ... Two-time Grammy winner Ike Turner dies at 76. ... Warner Bros.' "I Am Legend" does $76 million in its opening weekend, Will Smith's biggest bow ever.