MOVIES COMING OUT LIKE EASTER BUNNIES

Theater owners are expecting that many of their screening rooms will be divided into those for boys and those for girls over the Easter weekend, as Hannah Montana: The Movie takes on last week's big winner, Fast and Furious. Many analysts are betting on the boys' film, although Hannah Montana has reportedly been selling more tickets on Internet ticketing sites throughout the week. It is opening in 3,118 theaters. Trade reviews have been largely positive. The Hollywood Reporter's Michael Rechtshaffencommented that the movie "is a can't-miss proposition for Disney, which is smartly striking while the iron is still reasonably hot. It likely won't match last year's $31.1 million opening registered by Miley's all-singing Best of Both Worlds, but Cyrus' enthusiastic fan base should ensure brisk spring break business." Lael Lowenstein similarly concluded in Daily Variety: "Widely accessible even to neophytes, the G-rated pic is innocuous fare that should score big with tween girls, as well as those parents seeking age-appropriate role models for their daughters." For the somewhat older set, the weekend, which will see crowded marquees, also features the wide-release debut of the R-rated Observe and Report, starring Seth Rogen, and the Fox fantasy film Dragonball Evolution.

MARLEY AND ME BARKS AT SLUMDOG

Marley & Me scampered to the top of the DVD sales chart last week, outdistancing Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire. The two debuting entries pushed the teen vampire hit Twilight, which had held the No. 1 spot the previous two weeks, to third place, according to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert. Marley also took the No. 1 spot on Home Media Magazine's rental chart, followed by the Will Smith drama Seven Pounds and Slumdog. Meanwhile, in the U.K., Twilight sold an impressive 211,031 DVD and Blu-ray copies, making it the third biggest debut of the year in that country, behind High School Musical 3 and Quantum of Silence. And, in a related matter, mall retailer Hot Topic, which caters to teens, credited better-than-expected sales results in March to DVD sales of Twilight.

UK FILM ATTENDANCE SOARS

Attendance at movie theaters in the U.K. is soaring, the British trade journal Screen Digest reported Wednesday, citing a 16-percent bump in attendance this year recorded by the Cinema Admissions Association. Screen Digest said that ticket sales were helped by films of better quality, including two from the U.K., Slumdog Millionaire and The Reader. The trade paper observed that in February the British box office recorded its best attendance in eight years. John Woodward, head of the UK Film Council, told Screen Digest: "The industry is feeling bullish. It is about quality movies, but there is the recession factor. People want cheap entertainment."

LIZ SMITH HAILS FIRED COLUMNIST ROGER FRIEDMAN

Veteran entertainment columnist Liz Smith has come to the defense of former FoxNews.com entertainment columnist Roger Friedman. In her syndicated column today (Thursday), Smith calls Friedman "the hardest-working entertainment columnist in the entire world." While observing that downloading a bootleg workprint of 20th Century Fox's X-Men Origins: Wolverine and reviewing it was tantamount to "waving a red flag in front of a fox," Smith observes that Friedman was "fired by one facet of an empire owned by Rupert Murdoch, when he tries to print the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." In February, Smith herself was fired by another facet of Murdoch's "empire," the New York Post.