Disney Saved by Mary Poppins

Julie Andrews | Jacko | Paul McCartney

Disney: 40 Years Later, Saved by Mary Poppins

Disney was saved on Wednesday from a bleak box office summer by none other than Mary Poppins. It’s been 40 years, but she still has her magic.

I’m talking, of course, about Julie Andrews, the real star of "Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement." The movie — which features Anne Hathaway as an American teen who becomes European royalty — took in almost $9 million yesterday, which was pretty impressive.

It was just in the nick of time for Disney, a studio suffering from lack of hits. "The Village," directed by M. Night Shyamalan, began its run two weeks ago with a lot of promise and an opening night of $20 million in the till. But "The Village" has been skidding downhill ever since. On Wednesday, the thriller-less thriller took in $7 million less than "Princess Diaries," even though it’s on about 700 more screens. Ouch!

PD2:RE, like "Princess Diaries" 1, was directed by Garry Marshall, the same man who brought Disney its first breakthrough “adult” hit fourteen years ago with “Pretty Woman.” Marshall, one of my favorite comic character actors, was famous for directing and producing TV shows such as "The Odd Couple," "Happy Days," "Laverne & Shirley," and "Mork & Mindy." (He was never cited for being a writer on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" until the day before yesterday, when Manola Darghis — sourly reviewing PD2:RE — mentioned it but left out his more important credits. Weird.)

Marshall has a spotty career as a film director, but nevertheless has had his moments with "The Flamingo Kid," "Nothing in Common," and "Pretty Woman." He can be overly schmaltzy, which tends not to work well when the material is already gooey. But he’s hit a nerve with “Diaries,” and aside from creating a franchise, Marshall has handed Disney a badly needed boost.

Someone over there had better send him and Julie Andrews some big gifts today.

Jacko Source: Family Was not Coerced into Making Video

Monday will be quite a day for Michael Jackson in court. His arch nemesis, Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon, will have to testify about whether he knew in advance that a private detective whose office he raided was an employee of Jackson’s attorney Mark Geragos and not Jackson himself. Jackson is planning to be in court for this occasion.

Yesterday, Sneddon’s office — as always happens days before a scheduled hearing — leaked a story claiming that the “conspiracy” that Jackson is alleged to have concocted against his 14-year-old accuser and family was based on a videotape. The tape, according to the leak, shows the accuser and family being coerced to say Jackson was a great guy who’d done no harm to him. This was done, they say, in response to the negative press they had all received from the documentary “Living with Michael Jackson,” which aired on Feb. 6, 2003.

This dog may not hunt if it ever comes to trial. The videotape to which Sneddon is referring was made on Feb. 20, 2003, in front of a lot of people: two videographers, a production crew, private investigator Brad Miller, and Vincent Amen, who picked up the accuser's mother at her boyfriend’s house, according to sources, and brought her to the video shoot. Possibly a dozen people were there as one of the videographers conducted a “Q&A” session with the family regarding the nature of Jackson’s relationship with them.

“Don’t you think if they were uncomfortable they would have said something?” asked one of the people who was present but asked for anonymity. “How about the mother’s boyfriend, a U.S. Army major who knew everything that was going on? He didn’t even think enough of this to come and watch.”

After the shoot, Amen, according to my sources, drove the family back to the home of the mother’s boyfriend and not to Neverland or any other place where they could have been sequestered by Jackson.

Sneddon, by the way, claims in his revised court filing that Jackson first began to conspire against the 14-year-old and/or molest him on that very night — the same night Amen deposited the entire family at the boyfriend’s house after a long day of filming.

Will Paul McCartney Wind Up with iTunes?

It’s not like he needs it, but Paul McCartney could wind up owning the Apple iTunes Store along with Yoko Ono, Ringo Starr, and Olivia Harrison.

I’ve told you before about the lawsuit filed by the Beatles aka Apple Corps against Apple Computers for trademark infringement. Back in 1991, Apple Computers signed an agreement with Apple Corps waiving the use of the Apple name and logo for all music-related enterprises. The computer company paid the Beatles £26 million, or about $41 million, in damages. The deal was closed on Oct. 9, 1991, which ironically would have been John Lennon’s 51st birthday.

You’d think that would have been it, and Apple Computers wouldn’t have violated the deal. But last year came AppleMusic, iTunes, and the iPod.

At first, Apple Computers said they were only distributing music in the United States. But now they’re about to branch out across the world. And the iPod has turned into a more popular product than Apple's computers.

Apple Computers, it seems, tried two different tacks to worm out of their situation. One was to ask the High Court of London to let them have their lawsuit with the Beatles in California and not in England. On Feb. 7, 2004, the court disagreed and cleared the way for a London trial. But Apple also tried something else. According to the 26-page, single spaced decision handed down that day by Honourable Justice Mann of the court, Apple Computers tried to claim that the 1991 agreement could not be argued in England because it hadn’t been signed simultaneously in the United States and the United Kingdom. Justice Mann, in his exhaustive written answer, decided that England was in fact the exact right place to hear the case. And so it shall proceed.

The weird thing about the Apple Computers side of the case it that what they agreed to is spelled out so completely in the 1991 agreement. In section 4, paragraph 3 of the agreement: “[Apple] shall not use or authorize others to use the Apple Computer Marks on or in connection with physical media delivering pre-recorded content (such as a compact disc of the Rolling Stones music)…”

So get ready, because the Beatles look like they will have the upper hand in this case, and their heirs should be whistling a pretty tune — prettier even than "Yesterday" — for years to come.