It has been less than a week since the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike officially began, but it is already severely affecting many television shows.

At a meeting yesterday, many of Hollywood’s most powerful show runners agreed to stop work on their shows immediately, until the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) resume negotiations with the WGA. Effective immediately, several major shows have stopped filming and editing new episodes. Enormously popular shows like Family Guy and The Office will only air one more new episode before going into reruns. Office scribes — including BJ Novak, Mindy Kaling, and Paul Lieberstein — marched the picket lines and explained how they are currently losing out on residuals of their immensely popular “Webisodes.”

Many other celebs showed their support by marching — including Desperate HousewivesMarc Cherry and Eva Longoria (who handed out pizza to the hungry picketers) and Grey’s Anatomy‘s Shonda Rhimes, Katherine Heigl, and T.R. Knight.

Many supporters of the strike continue to bring goodies to the picketing lines. Sources tell us that Alison Sweeney (Sami from Days of Our Lives) paid a special visit to the NBC lot to bring some junk food to the writers, and Jimmy Kimmel brought burritos, while Jay Leno continued to bring by his daily donut delivery. Another important friend to the WGA — Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the major Hollywood talent agencies — brought by hot chocolate and cookies. Check out RT’s earlier report on which celebs are supporting the writers.


“Can you feel the love tonight?”

But not everyone is as sweet on the strike. Ex-Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, blasted the WGA strike at the Dow Jones/Nielsen Media and Money conference yesterday. According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter, the former studio head quipped, “For a writer to give up today’s money for a nonexistent piece of the future — they should do it in three years, shouldn’t be doing it now — they are misguided they should not have gone on the strike. I’ve seen stupid strikes, I’ve seen less stupid strikes, and this strike is just a stupid strike.” He also suggested that the writers weren’t placing blame on all responsible parties — such as Apple — saying that, “The only real winner here is Steve Jobs. They should be striking up at Cupertino or wherever he is.” Take a look at RT’s strike rundown for more details on what the WGA is asking for in terms of new media.

Another conspicuously unsupportive foe of the WGA is talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. Although other talk show hosts — such as Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jon Stewart — have halted production on their shows, Ellen has continued to tape, after taking one day off. Her resistance to stop production has spawned the chant, “Ellen, you’re no friend of mine; you danced across the picket line!” heard by passers-by on the NBC Studios lot.

For More RT strike coverage, check out:

As Hollywood Strike Begins, Celebs Join Writers on Picket Lines

To Strike, Or Not To Strike — What’s The Deal as Hollywood’s Clock Runs Down?

Workers, Er, Writers, Unite — The Strike Is On!

Three new releases welcome in the new year this weekend, but moviegoers are likely to keep spending their cash on holiday holdovers.

Family audiences have the new toon "Happily N’Ever After," teens will be offered the drama "Freedom Writers," and the comedy crowd will have "Code Name: The Cleaner." Also, the sci-fi drama "Children of Men" expands across the country after a powerful debut last weekend in limited release. Early January is usually home to two kinds of films – weak pictures that can’t cut it during the competitive holiday season and acclaimed films expanding wider hoping for awards. This frame will see just that with current chart-topper "Night at the Museum" hoping for a third reign in the number one spot.

Kids who have had enough of digital penguins will have a chance to see a new animated film this weekend with Lionsgate’s "Happily N’Ever After." The PG-rated film tells the story of Fairy Tale World after Cinderella’s wicked stepmother takes charge. Sigourney Weaver, Andy Dick, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and hubby Freddie Prinze Jr. lend their voices. "After" has a funny premise and with "Shrek the Third" still four months away, some audiences may give this one a try for the time being. Last January, "Hoodwinked" posted some strong numbers playing to the same crowd and bowed to $16.9M over four days with a potent $7,051 average. "Happily" does not have the same marketing strength behind it plus it faces more competition. Last weekend, six films with G or PG ratings sold over $10M
worth of tickets over four days and even with heavy declines, there will be lots of choices for family audiences. Looking to attract the biggest opening among the three new films on Friday, "Happily N’Ever After" enters 2,381 theaters and may take in around $7M this weekend.


The British animated import "Happily N’Ever After."

Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank takes the Michelle Pfeiffer route and plays a teacher schooling a group of inner city kids in "Freedom Writers" from Paramount and MTV Films. Directed by writer-turned-director Richard LaGravenese, the PG-13 film also stars "Grey’s Anatomy" hunk Patrick Dempsey. Teens and urban youngsters will make up the core audience here as Swank’s mature adult following will likely pass on this role. The actress just doesn’t have the commercial chops to anchor a film like this on her own and the buzz is not loud enough for this to become the next "Dangerous Minds." Paramount is hoping that its push on MTV will help bring in the young vote, but the pic lacks the bang to make teens want to spend the bucks. Opening in about 1,200 theaters, "Freedom Writers" could debut with around $5M.


Hilary Swank, conjuring Michelle Pfeiffer and Edward James Olmos in "Freedom Writers."

Also expected to put only a small dent into the box office this weekend is the comedy "Code Name: The Cleaner" starring Cedric the Entertainer and Lucy Liu. Pairing black and Asian actors in an action comedy worked wonders for "Rush Hour," but here audiences will likely find the premise forced. Cedric plays a janitor who is duped into becoming an undercover agent and finds himself in the middle of an arms scandal. Both stars are great supporting players but neither has a track record of anchoring big hit films. Interested moviegoers will probably wait for the DVD. Look for the New Line release to also debut in the vicinity of $5M.


"Codename: The Cleaner" isn’t expected to clean up at the boxoffice.

Expanding nationwide on Friday into 1,200 locations after a powerful limited bow is Universal’s futuristic drama "Children of Men." The Alfonso Cuaron-directed pic about the London of the future where no humans have been born in eighteen years stars Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, and Michael Caine. The R-rated film debuted to $702,982 from only 16 theaters for a sensational four-day average of $43,936. Serious adult moviegoers are the target audience here so the studio’s own CIA thriller "The Good Shepherd" will be the primary competitor. Reviews have been strong which will help. For the weekend, "Children of Men" could deliver roughly $7M.


Clive Owen and his golden aura in "Children of Men."

Since the incoming line-up of films is not likely to do too much damage to the box office charts, it should be smooth sailing for "Night at the Museum" which looks to spend its third straight weekend at number one. "Happily N’Ever After" will take away a bit of the family crowd, but overall competition should not be too intense. Coming off of the holiday weekend, the Ben Stiller smash may drop 40% and collect $22M worth of tickets and push its stellar cume to $163M.

Will Smith‘s Golden Globe-nominated performance in "The Pursuit of Happyness" has kept moviegoers interested for three weeks. The Sony hit may slide 40% as well grossing $11.5M which would give the father-son venture $123M to date. "Dreamgirls" has been generating the best averages around since opening. Paramount could witness a 35% drop to around $9M for the frame and lift its cume to $55M.

LAST YEAR: Horror fans powered the new fright flick "Hostel" to the number one spot over the first weekend of 2006 with a $19.6M debut. The low budget Lionsgate hit went on to scare up $47.3M. Holdovers filled up the rest of the top five. "The Chronicles of Narnia" slipped to second with $15.6M followed by "King Kong" with $12.6M. The comedies "Fun with Dick and Jane" and "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" took up the next spots with $11.9M and $8.4M, respectively. The weekend’s two other new releases bombed miserably. Fox’s comedy "Grandma’s Boy" bowed to just $3M while the actioner "BloodRayne" barely made it into the Top 20 with $1.6M. Final grosses reached $6.1M and $2.4M.

Author: Gitesh Pandya, www.BoxOfficeGuru.com

In this week’s Ketchup, we just can’t get enough of those tidbits from the upcoming third installments of "Spider-Man" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the live-action "Transformers."

Also, Heath Ledger can’t avoid "Dark Knight" questions while trying to promote his little indie film, and some guy’s intial reaction to "Apocalypto" somehow made headlines. Read on for more.

This Week’s Most Popular News:

New Peeks at Spidey 3 and Pirates 3!
It really stinks to have to sit and wait for movies like these ones, but as long as we keep getting a constant string of posters, trailers, set pics and photo galleries, we’re happy. Actually we’re not, but we’ll take what we can get, right?

A Young Captain Jack in "Pirates 3"?
The latest rumor swirling around about the next (and final?) "Pirates of the Caribbean" flick is that we just might get a peek at what Captain Jack Sparrow looked like … as a kid!

(More) New Transformers Pics!
I get the feeling that this is going to be a weekly occurrence until Michael Bay’s "Transformers" is finally released, but here you go: More new pics of the robo-vehicles!

A Few Random "Dark Knight" Nuggets

Poor Heath Ledger is out there on the circuit trying to promote his indie flick "Candy" — and all he’s getting are "The Dark Knight" questions! Ah well, I suppose it’s better than being unemployed, eh Heath?

"Apocalypto" Wow
Yes, "wow" says … a guy who reads AICN. Some dude with a pseudonym caught an early screening of Mel Gibson’s "Apocalypto," and get this: He LIKED IT! Stunning!

Rumors and trailers and pics, oh my!

In Other News:

  • Joe Carnahan is considering directing a remake of "Bunny Lake is Missing," a thriller that could be the next starring vehicle for Reese Witherspoon.
  • Dennis Quaid has joined the cast of "The Express", Universal Pictures’ drama about the late football star Ernie Davis, the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy.
  • Filippo Bozotti ("Marie Antoinette," "The Sopranos") will play a penniless European playboy in "The Great Pretender," and will also co-produce the film.
  • Director Chris Kentis will re-team with his "Open Water" producer Laura Lau for "Indianapolis," an adaptation of the Douglas Stanton book "In Harm’s Way."
  • Writer/director Jon Avnet is close to completing the script of "I Kill," a serial-killer thriller based on the Italian bestseller of the same name.
  • Nina Jacobson has signed a producing deal with DreamWorks Studios, giving the studio a first look at her projects over a three-year term.
  • Timothy Olyphant has reportedly landed the title role in the video game adaptation "Hitman," Vin Diesel having previously been attached to star in the role.
  • George Clooney and partner Grant Heslov are close to acquiring screen rights to John Grisham‘s non-fiction novel "The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town," about the true case of a wrongly-convicted Oklahoma man.

Perfecting the role of "brat."

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