CLOONEY CLOBBERED

George Clooney may have wanted to seek treatment in the E.R. over the weekend as he suffered a nasty beating at the box office. Although Leatherheads, the film he directed and starred in, had been expected to earn $15-20 million and thereby win the box office contest, it instead wound up with just 13.5 million and had to settle for second place, according to studio estimates, with some analysts predicting it will actually come in third when Sunday receipts are finally tallied. Sony/Columbia's 21, which surprisingly came in at No. 1 last week, surprisingly came in at No. 1 for the second week in a row with ticket sales of $15.1 million. The Jody Foster family film Nim's Island from 20th Century Fox came in third with $13.3 million. A third newcomer, the fright film The Ruins placed fifth with $7.8 million. In limited release, Martin Scorsese's documentary concert film Shine a Light, featuring a performance by the Rolling Stones, opened solidly with $1.5 million from 276 theaters, 93 of them giant IMAX venues. Overall, the box office fell 23 percent compared to the same weekend a year ago. Some analysts blamed television's coverage of the NCAA basketball championships, which in particular may have drawn audiences away from the sports-themed Leatherheads.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. 21, $15.1 million; 2. Leatherheads, $13.5 million; 3. Nim's Island, $13.3 million; 4. Horton Hears a Who!, $9.1 million; 5. The Ruins, $7.8 million; 6. Superhero Movie, $5.4 million; 7. Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns, $3.51 million; 8. Drillbit Taylor, $3.5 million; 9. Shutter, $2.9 million; 10. 10,000 B.C., $2.8 million.

HORTON RULES OVERSEAS

Overseas, Horton Hears a Who! came in first for the second straight weekend, earning $11.7 million. Ticket sales remained slow, with the French hit Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis, which is playing only in French-speaking areas of Europe, one of the few films continuing to pile up giant revenue.

HURT CONFIRMS: LASTEST INDY FILM WILL DEBUT AT CANNES

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull will have its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, costar John Hurt has told a British talk show host. Appearing on the BBC's Jonathan Ross Show, Hurt, who won Oscar nods for his roles in Midnight Express and The Elephant Man, described Harrison Ford's work in the film at age 65 as "brilliant," adding, "I have nothing but good things to say about him. He understands that whole franchise. He is that franchise."

INDUSTRY TALKS WITH IATSE EXPECTED TO BE BRIEF

A full 16 months before the current contract between the studios and the Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees is due to expire, the two sides are due to begin negotiations today (Monday) on a new contract. Daily Variety predicted that the talks will be wrapped up by Wednesday. Far more contentious talks are due to begin on April 15 between the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

IRANIAN LAWMAKER CALLS FOR BOYCOTT OF HOLLAND OVER FILM

The speaker of the Iranian parliament has called on Muslim nations to "avoid buying" all products produced in the Netherlands in response to Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders's film Fitna, which argues that the Koran is the inspiration for terrorism, anti-Semitism and hate. Any country that allows its citizens to "insult Islam," Gholam Ali Haddad Adel said in a statement quoted by Iran's state radio Sunday, would likely reconsider "once they see their economies are in danger." Meanwhile about 40 students staged a peaceful demonstration outside the Dutch embassy in Tehran on Saturday to protest against Wilders's film. In Pakistan, however, more than 25,000 people gathered Sunday to demonstrate against the film. Meanwhile, earlier today, a Dutch court in The Hague declined to ban Fitna citing the country's laws protecting freedom of speech.

CHARLTON HESTON, DEAD AT 84

Charlton Heston, whose movie career spanned the Hollywood era when epic films boasted that they featured "a cast of thousands," died Saturday night at the age of 84. His films included such extravaganzas as Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments. But he was just as well known for his roles in sci-fi movies like Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green. He also served as president of the Screen Actors Guild and in later years as president of the National Rifle Association.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.