G.I. JOE RISES TO THE TOP

Another Hasbro toy has triumphed at the box office. G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which blew up critics' reviews, which would ordinarily have run on Friday, like the Eiffel Tower in the movie, posted an estimated $56.2 million at the domestic box office and $44.3 million overseas. It was the first blockbuster film -- it reportedly cost $175 million to make -- that was not shown to critics in advance, a strategy that seemed to work (although the critics themselves would undoubtedly argue that few if any G.I. Joe ticket buyers were likely to have been influenced by what they had to say since hardly any of them read reviews anyway). After all, scorching reviews by critics failed to keep another Paramount movie, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, from becoming one of the biggest hits of the year. In an interview with the Associated Press, Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore said, "With these kind (sic) of movies, at times critics have a hard time getting their arms around them. ... But the audience got exactly what it was: a fun summer movie, a great way to end your summer. You just relax and have a good time. You don't have to worry about global politics or global warming." The movie also rescued the box office from four weeks of losses compared with last year (when The Dark Knight continued to rule). The overall gross for the top ten films was up 22 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago. The movie also performed well overseas -- where some analysts figured it would face anti-U.S.-military sentiment. It performed particularly well in Russia. Also opening solidly was the Meryl Streep-starrer Julie & Julia, a far less costly movie (estimated budget: $38 million) that earned $20.1 million, to place second. However last week's winner, Judd Apatow's Funny People plummeted 65 percent to $7.9 million, to place fifth. An the horror flick A Perfect Getaway got away with a far-from-perfect $5.8 million in its debut, placing seventh.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo:

1. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, $56.2 million; 2. Julie & Julia, $20.1 million; 3. G-Force, $9.8 million; 4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, $8.9 million; 5. Funny People, $7.9 million; 6. The Ugly Truth, $7 million; 7. A Perfect Getaway, $5.8 million; 8. Aliens in the Attic, $4 million; 9. Orphan, $3.73 million; 10. 500 Days of Summer, $3.7 million.

MOVIE REVIEWS: G.I. JOE

In the end, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra got just the kind of scathing reviews that Paramount executives had expected. Manohla Dargis in the New York Times suggested that the execs who opted not to show the movie to critics were just being "pragmatists and must have smelled the stench long ago, then again ... this pricey, juiceless pulp could never have been killed by critics, simply because it was already dead." Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News commented that the movie enters "the annals of inane summer would-be blockbusters that make your brain bleed." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times remarked dourly, "It is sure to be enjoyed by those whose movie appreciation is defined by the ability to discern that moving pictures and sound are being employed to depict violence." But David Hiltbrand in the Philadelphia Inquirer suggested that the movie succeeded in its goal. "G.I. Joe's mission," he wrote, "is to provide moviegoers with bang for their buck. And in this it succeeds. ... OK, it's seriously deficient in plot or acting. But in this genre, those two ingredients are as superfluous as canoes in a desert."

STRONG SPRING TICKET SALES BOOST EXHIBITORS

The strong box-office performance of movies released last spring is beginning to be reflected in the quarterly reports of the nation's theater chains. Cinemark, which operates 4,889 screens worldwide said its profits rose 20 percent to $18.7 million on revenue of $517.5 million. Ticket sales were up 115.2 percent to $339.1 million, while concession sales were up 12.3 percent to $158.9 million. Most impressively, said CEO Alan Stock, was the fact that overseas attendance outpaced the U.S. "Consumers continue to prove they value the cinema as one of the most attractive forms of out-of-home entertainment," he said. Nevertheless, because of the weakened dollar, overseas revenue was up only 1.1 percent over last year.

TWILIGHT TAKES BIG BITE OF TEEN CHOICE AWARDS

Predictably, Twilight walked away with the major film prizes at Sunday's 11th annual Teen Choice Awards in Los Angeles -- 11 of them. Favorites Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart took the two acting prizes in the drama category. The ceremonies were hosted by the Jonas Brothers, who also walked away with five trophies, including breakout TV show. Miley Cyrus received six awards, including best comedy show and best actress in a comedy. The ceremony is scheduled to air tonight (Monday) on Fox.