Through the Wire


Swan Song Sends 'Sopranos’ Cast South

When the finale of HBO’s The Sopranos airs this Sunday, the cast won’t be in the Garden State, the setting for the show, to watch it. Key members of the show’s ensemble are scheduled to appear at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., a venue that got worldwide attention in February. Anna Nicole Smith was found unconscious in one of the hotel’s rooms Feb. 8, and later died.

The Sopranos cast members will be at the Seminole Hard Rock for a red-carpet event, special dinner and “viewing party” that the hotel is sponsoring June 10 just before the final installment of the mob hit airs.

The hotel retained the actors individually as guests of honor for its dinner, lining up James Gandolfini, Lorraine Bracco, Michael Imperioli, Tony Sirico, Vince Curatola, Steven Schirripa and John Ventimiglia. HBO doesn’t have any association with the event or “viewing party.”

The schedule has the Sopranos cast members walking the red carpet at the hotel at 5 p.m., and then attending the supper at the Hard Rock Live, where the hotel has invited some 800 guests, including Players Club cardholders, high rollers and VIPs. At 9 p.m., the hotel will put on the boob tube for the show’s finale, although the cast members won’t be in the room for that.

The hotel in May also gave away tickets to the dinner, in a drawing it called “Tony’s Swan Song Giveaway.”

Meanwhile, closer to the show’s New Jersey setting, Time Warner Cable has something special planned for Sopranos fans in Staten Island, N.Y.

For the past five years, the cable operator has held a preview screening there of the first episode of each new season of The Sopranos. But this year, Time Warner will hold a simulcast viewing of the show’s finale June 10, and the giveaway of the shindig’s tickets drew an SRO crowd.

The cable system passed out more than 400 tickets to the event at its new retail location at the Staten Island Mall on May 19.

“We gave out all our tickets in 45 minutes,” said Suzanne Giuliani, Time Warner’s director of public relations for New York and New Jersey. “This is like a tradition, so the first person lined up at like 4:30 in the morning.”

The screening will take place at the College of Staten Island. The audience will get Sopranos-themed giveaways, typically popular with the crowd. In the past, attendees have clamored for the Sopranos-logo-ed attire that Time Warner staffers have worn at the event.

“They even want the shirts off our back that say Sopranos, from our staff working,’ ” Giuliani said. “They’ll say, 'Give me your shirt.’ ”


Comcast Paid Dallas Firm For Rights to 'Fancast’

In mid-2006, when Comcast settled on the name for Fancast — an entertainment-oriented Internet site it expects to launch this summer — the company evidently didn’t realize that a small Web-development firm was already using the moniker.

To get the trademark rights, Comcast paid a “significant” sum to the Dallas firm, Big in Japan, according to one of the firm’s top executives, Alex Muse, who said his title is “social ninja.”

When asked about the claim, Comcast declined to comment.

Muse said Comcast contacted him in October 2006 and demanded his outfit stop using the Fancast name. Big in Japan, a division of 40-person information-technology services company Architel, specializes in creating social-networking applications.

The previous month, Big in Japan had launched an interactive-podcast service for FX’s original series Nip/Tuck called Fancast. Using a regular telephone, the service allows fans to submit comments about the show — which are then posted to the site — or pose questions to the show’s cast members and creators.

Comcast filed a trademark application for Fancast in August 2006, but Big in Japan was using the name since at least June of that year, when Muse demonstrated the podcasting service at a Microsoft-sponsored conference.

“Comcast called us and said, 'You can’t do this,’ ” Muse said. “I said, 'Well, yes, I can. I’ve been using this before you filed your intent to use it.’ ”

Earlier this year, according to Muse, the parties reached a settlement. Comcast paid cash — Muse said the amount is confidential — and provided some TV and online advertising inventory to Big in Japan. Muse said that the group hasn’t taken Comcast up on the advertising offer yet.

Big in Japan changed the service’s name to FanPodCast. A U.S. Patent and Trademark Office filing said Big in Japan abandoned claims to “Fancast” on Jan. 30.

For Comcast, represents a significant online initiative intended to let anyone find TV shows, movie and other content — on cable, on the Internet, on DVDs or in theaters.

The operator announced in April that it would acquire Fandango, a movie-ticketing site whose capabilities are to be integrated into Fancast.

IFC Scores Cannes Coup, But Will it Play in USA?

The Independent Film Channel scored a pre-awards coup at the 60th Cannes Film Festival, buying the rights to the eventual winner of the prestigious Palme d’Or.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, by Romanian filmmaker Christian Mungiu, beat out fare by more internationally known directors such as Quentin Tarantino, Joel Coen and Wong Kar-Wai for the festival’s top award.

Now cinephiles, at least those in the 40 million homes with access to IFC on Demand, will be able to see the film without having to trek to an art house cinema, if their home towns even have an art house.

For the last year, the network has offered two films a month at the same day and date as they become available for theatrical release. The on-demand release date has not been set yet for the film fest winner, according to IFC.

But will that accessibility cause a storm of controversy? The shorthand in the press coverage for the Palme d’Or winner, a critical favorite from the day the festival opened, was “the abortion film.” It depicts the horrors a student goes through in Ceausescu-era Romania in her attempts to obtain a back-alley abortion for her friend. Given the hot-button nature of that issue in this country, the reaction to the availability of the film will be interesting to watch.