news digest


Early exit for Uni's Bario

Holly Bario, executive vp production at Universal, is exiting the company. Today is her last day. Rumors have circulated for months that Bario would leave to join former Universal chairman Stacey Snider at DreamWorks. Calls to DreamWorks were not returned by press time. Bario's contract ran through year's end, but sources said she asked to be let out early to spend time with her family. At Universal, Bario was known for her relationships with comedic talent and oversaw such films as "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "Knocked Up," "Evan Almighty" and the upcoming "Mamma Mia!"

'Band' won't be visiting with Oscar

The band has been bounced. "The Band's Visit," which Sony Pictures Classics has acquired for North American unspooling, has been ruled ineligible as Israel's foreign-film entry in the Oscars. The tale about an Egyptian police band stranded in an Israeli town has more than 50% English dialogue and thus fails to meet standards of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger said Thursday. "Band" producer Ehud Bleiberg said a letter of appeal already has been sent to AMPAS. SPC plans to bow the film, a big hit with Israeli critics, Feb. 8.

'Sicko' among nominees for IDA honors

The five nominated features in the 23rd annual International Documentary Assn. Distinguished Documentary Achievement Awards competition were announced Thursday, and "Crazy Love," "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience," "Sicko," "Taxi to the Dark Side" and "A Walk to Beautiful" made the cut. Winners will be announced at the IDA Awards gala benefit Dec. 7 at the DGA Theatre in Los Angeles.

Aussie films have Inside track

SYDNEY — The Australian film and TV awards season kicked off this week with the announcement of nominations for the annual Inside Film Awards. "Home Song Stories," an Australia and Singapore co-production, dominated the 2007 lineup. Also vying for best picture are Dee McLachlan's "The Jammed," about the sex slave trade in underground Melbourne, which was nominated in six categories, and Michael James Rowland's "Lucky Miles," which received five noms. Others nominated include Matt Saville's "Noise," with five noms, and Cherie Nowlan's "Clubland," with three. The awards ceremony is set for Nov. 16.

'Special Agent' Astin reports to Disney

Disney Channel has gone into production on a new Playhouse Disney preschool series titled "Special Agent Oso," starring Sean Astin as the voice of Oso, a fuzzy, lovable, bumbling special agent-in-training who enlists the help of viewers at home to complete his missions. Each episode of the show, tentatively set to premiere in fall 2008, will consist of two 11-minute adventures and original music. Ford Riley is creator and executive producer; Jamie Mitchell is director and co-executive producer.

Jakks Pacific master of 'SpongeBob'

Nickelodeon & Viacom Consumer Products has named Jakks Pacific as the domestic master toy licensee for its veteran hit show "SpongeBob SquarePants," which has generated more than $6.3 billion in retail sales. Jakks Pacific plans to launch the SpongeBob line with a collectible micro-figure program and plush products based on the show.