music reporter

A Cheetah prowls film; Hart's hi-def adventure

Cheetah Girl Kiely Williams is breaking out on her own. She's been added to the cast of Columbia Pictures' "The Bunny House" (working title), starring Anna Faris, which is being produced by Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Prods. Sandler auditioned the starlet himself, and her first day of filming is today in Los Angeles. The film also stars "American Idol" runner-up Katharine McPhee and Rumer Willis.

This marks yet another success story for the Walt Disney Co.'s Cheetah Girls franchise, which started out as a series of books, then turned into a Disney made-for-TV movie, then a real pop band, then a big-screen film. The Cheetah Girls grossed more than $26 million for 86 concerts dates from September-February.

The group's new album, "TCG," will be released Sept. 25. As part of the campaign to promote the record, the Cheetah Girls will appear on 50 million boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. New merchandise also will be added in the fall, including Cheetah Girls dolls, a singing poster, a Nintendo video game and an exclusive bear offered at Build-A-Bear.

Insiders are buzzing about Beth Hart. Not only because she sounds better than ever but also because she and manager Dave Wolf are thinking outside the box. Her new album, "37 Days," was recorded in just that amount of time but not in a traditional studio.

It was recorded at Center Staging, a music and TV production facility in Burbank, under the microscope of hi-def cameras. So every track has a video of her recording it — raw in a way that's true to Hart's rock 'n' roll grit. The editors got so into it that the videos consist of the exact takes that were included on the album. She also recorded acoustic versions of each song.

It is a perfect marriage of audio and visual for the multiplatform world we live in (did I hear you say mobisodes?). But most inspiring is how good the music is. Hart finally has found her true voice, and she belts out songs like few women of her generation can. And fans are responding: The first single, "Good as It Gets," released on Universal Denmark, has hit No. 1 in that country.

The project is a joint venture between Wolf/Hart and Center Staging. Interestingly enough, this is a new business model for Center Staging: Take a well-known artist with a fan base, let them record in their facility, do a joint venture and get music to the public. Not a bad idea. On Wednesday, Center Staging is doing an industry showcase of the project, not only for labels but also for nontraditional retailers.