news digest


Chou enters 'Kingdom'

Collin Chou is joining Jackie Chan and Jet Li in "The Forbidden Kingdom." Lionsgate is the lead distributor on the co-release with the Weinstein Co. Principal photography has started, with Rob Minkoff directing from a John Fusco original screenplay based on the Chinese legend of the Monkey King. Chou recently wrapped Hong Kong-based Mandarin Films' "Flash Point"; his other credits include "The Matrix Revolutions" and "The Matrix Reloaded." He is repped by Global Artists Agency, Convergence Entertainment and Jackoway, Tyerman.

Cassidy exits as top man at Xfire

Mike Cassidy, CEO of the Viacom Inc.-owned gaming Web site Xfire, has left the company. After selling Xfire to the conglomerate in April 2006 for $102 million, Cassidy was announced Wednesday as the new entrepreneur in residence at venture capital firm Benchmark Capital. This isn't the first time Cassidy has moved on from a startup he founded; he left Direct Hit shortly after selling it to Ask Jeeves in 2000 and did the same at Stylus Innovation after selling it to Artisoft in 1996.

Screen Media promotions boost int'l ops

Screen Media Ventures is beefing up its international theatrical operations, promoting longtime director of international sales Michael Dwyer to vp international sales and acquisitions. In addition, its Screen Media Films division promoted Alison Howard from director of video marketing to vp theatrical marketing and Tom Yagielski from manager of video operations to director of operations (theatrical and video). SMF also hired Caroline Weisenberg as its manager of theatrical marketing and acquisitions; she had been with architecture, engineering and planning firm CUH2A.

Unilever aims 'Sprays' at promotion

NEW YORK — Unilever launched a new animated Web series Wednesday to promote its I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! and Wish-Bone spray brands. The five-episode series, titled "Sprays in the City," taps into consumer fascination with celebrity gossip and online video blogging and tells the story of Spritzy, the "feisty" Wish-Bone salad-dressing spritzer, and Spraychel, the "captivating" I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! spray, Unilever said. The webisodes star Mark McGrath ("Extra"), Tim Gunn ("Project Runway") and Fabio. Unilever previously aired an animated Web series with the Spraychel character in August 2005 and July. Story Worldwide did the animation for all three series.

'Anna Nicole' still a big draw for E!

Months after her death, Anna Nicole Smith continues to be a ratings draw on cable. A three-hour E! primetime special, "The Life and Death of Anna Nicole," delivered the network's highest-rated Monday in four years, attracting 875,000 viewers — nearly doubling its primetime average. Its lead-in "The Daily 10" also got a lift at 7:30 p.m., experiencing the highest ratings in the show's history.

PassAlong joins EMI in no-DRM deal

DENVER — The EMI DRM-free train continues to roll, with PassAlong Networks becoming the latest digital music service to license the premium download offer. The deal enables all services using PassAlong's technology to offer the full EMI catalog at a higher bitrate for a higher price, the same as EMI's deals with iTunes and Amazon. PassAlong-powered services include Trans World Entertainment's f.y.e online music store and Procter & Gamble's Julie's Jukebox.
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