A pirated workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine that became available online last week has already been accessed more than a million times by BitTorrent users, according to the website TorrentFreak. It currently tops The Pirate Bay's list of the most popular downloads on torrent sites. TorrentFreak indicates that efforts by the film's distributor, 20th Century Fox, to halt the proliferation of the pirated film have been futile -- that no sooner does a torrent site take down a link to a copy of the film in accordance with a notice from the studio than new ones appear. TorrentFreak said that a poll it took of its readers indicated that, among those who downloaded the movie, some 40 percent said that it made them more excited to see it in theaters or on DVD and that only 6 percent said that they believe the pirated copy would be damaging.


By downloading and reviewing the pirated workprint of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Roger Friedman has lost his job as entertainment columnist for FoxNews.com. After issuing ambiguous statements concerning Friedman's status with the company, Fox News issued a statement Monday afternoon saying that it had met with Friedman earlier in the day and that they had "mutually agreed to part ways immediately." The statement made no mention of the controversy surrounding Friedman's review of the movie ("it exceeds expectations at every turn") or his seemingly tacit approval of online piracy. ("so much easier than going out in the rain"). Earlier, 20th Century Fox, while noting that Fox News is a separate entity within the News Corp family, had condemned the columnist's decision to download the film "whether the review is good or bad." At the Los Angeles Times website, entertainment writer Geoff Boucher commented, "The review was an audacious thing to do (or maybe just stupid) considering that 20th Century Fox, a corporate relative, had gone to the FBI to fight back against the theft and mass piracy."


Universal's Fast & Furiousfell short of the $72.5 million that the studio had estimated it would take in over the weekend, but its $70.95 actual gross remained far and away the most any movie had ever earned in April. It also helped lift the box office as a whole to its best April weekend ever, as the top 12 films grossed $148.89 million, a whopping 86 percent above the $80.22 million that the top 12 earned during the comparable weekend a year ago, according to Media by Numbers. Overall revenue from all movies for the year is up 14.49 percent to $2.57 billion, while attendance is up 13 percent.

{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Fast & Furious, Universal, $70,950,500, (New); 2. Monsters vs. Aliens, Paramount/DreamWorks Animation, $32,609,165, 2 Wks. ($104,799,387); 3. The Haunting in Connecticut, Lionsgate, $9,481,647, 2 Wks. ($37,171,280); 4. Knowing, Summit Ent. $8,146,156, 3 Wks. ($58,219,770); 5. I Love You, Man, Paramount, $7,722,468, 3 Wks. ($49,159,558); 6. Adventureland, Miramax, $5,722,039, (New); 7. Duplicity, Universal, $4,174,240, 3 Wks. ($32,250,215); 8. Race to Witch Mountain, Disney, $3,212,602, 4 Wks. ($58,249,111); 9. 12 Rounds, 20th Century Fox, $2,260,906, 2 Wks. ($89,827,67); 10. Sunshine Cleaning, Overture, $1,807,164, 4 Wks. ($4,702,721).


After repeatedly maintaining that it was in no danger of going under, Blockbuster on Monday warned that if it is unable to complete loan deals, it may be unable "to continue as a going concern." Blockbuster, the largest movie rental company, has faced daunting challenges from kiosk operators, online rental outfits (particularly Netflix), and pirates. Although the company said last week that it had received a $250-million revolving loan maturing in 18 months, it indicated on Monday that the loan was subject to certain conditions that it might not be able to meet and that while it expected to close the deal with the lenders by about May 11, "there can be no assurance regarding these matters." The statement, made after the markets closed on Monday, sent shares of Blockbuster tumbling more than 10 percent in early trading today (Tuesday).


Saying that its video-on-demand services "are fueling our subscriber growth," Starz Entertainment announced Monday that it had doubled the number of titles available for viewing. Starz, owned by John Malone's Liberty Entertainment, also said that it had launched a search feature called Enteract Now. Starz operates three movie networks, Starz, Encore and MoviePlex On Demand. Subscriber growth for video-on-demand services is expected to swell as television sets increasingly are being connected to the Internet either directly or by settop converter boxes.


Peter Bart has denied rampant stories on various Internet blogs that he was forced out as editor of Variety. In a telephone interview with today's (Tuesday) New York Times, Bart said, "There was a stipulation that I could step down at my 20-year mark if I wanted, and I did." Suggesting that he had decided to leave his post because of his age, 75, Bart said, "The speculation on these blogs that there are intrigues behind this move is surreal." Referring to his successor, Timothy Gray, Bart said. "Every newspaper needs reinvention. ... It's his time." Commenting on the transition, the Timessaid that Bart "transformed his job as editor into a true position of power in the industry by taking a personal role in articles and writing frequently. Mostly he spent time with Hollywood power players who were trained to regard him not as an observer but as a fellow player in their club."