SOLID DEBUTS FOR DISTRICT 9, TIME TRAVELER

District 9's final weekend results were slightly better than studio estimates, while The Time Traveler's Wife were slightly worse. District 9 wound up with $37.4 million, while The Time Traveler's Wife took in $18.6 million. (On Monday ABC announced that it plans to air a TV series based on the Time Traveler's story and has ordered a pilot from Warner Bros. TV.) Combined, they helped offset mediocre results for three other films that opened wide over the weekend and lifted the box office 14 percent above the comparable weekend a year ago. Last weekend's champ, G.I Joe, was gunned down in its second weekend, falling nearly 60 percent. But by far, the biggest disappointment was the meager $2.2-million result for Summit Entertainment's Bandslam, which failed even to make the top ten despite passing marks from critics. And while Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo received glowing reviews, it failed to generate the kind of enthusiastic reception from ticket buyers in the U.S. that it received overseas, where it was a major hit last year. The English-dubbed version took in just $3.6 million at 927 theaters.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Box Office Mojo (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. District 9, Sony/Tri-Star, $37,354,308, (New); 2. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Paramount, $22,324,341, 2 Wks. ($98,577,52); 3. The Time Traveler's Wife, Warner Bros., $18,623,171, (New); 4. Julie & Julia, Sony, $12,055,918, 2 Wks. ($43,340,386); 5. G-Force, Disney, $6,915,642, 4 Wks. ($99,056,616); 6. The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, Paramount Vantage, $5,642,137, (New); 7. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Warner Bros., $5,141,072, 5 Wks. ($283,879,025); 8. The Ugly Truth, Sony, $4,448,232, 4 Wks. ($77,450,118); 9. Ponyo, Disney, $3,585,852, (New); 10. Funny People, Universal, $3,010,755, 3 Wks. ($47,910,620).

DEMAND FOR FREE TICKETS CRASHES AVATAR'S WEBSITE

The official Avatar website was brought down Monday by a rush of moviegoers seeking free tickets to see a 16-minute preview of the movie at 104 IMAX theaters Friday. After several hours, the site was up and running again -- and quickly selling out location after location. In reporting the difficulties, the Hollywood Reporter commented today (Tuesday): "Given that Avatar, James Cameron's first narrative feature since 1997's Titanic promises a display of cutting-edge technology, the site snafu was something of an embarrassment." Some of those who had scored the free tickets quickly offered them for sale on eBay. As of this morning, one ticket seller in Woodland Hills, CA was offering a pair for $500.

ICE AGE 3 SETTING OVERSEAS RECORDS

Defying all odds -- and the performance history of similar films -- Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs has now earned more than $600 million overseas, the most ever earned by an animated film abroad, the Los Angeles Times observed today (Tuesday). In some markets, it noted, it has become the biggest-grossing film since 1997's Titanic. Part of the movie's success, the newspaper said, comes from the fact that 40 percent of its take derives from premium-priced tickets at theaters showing the movie in 3D. Moreover, the movie has been dubbed abroad by popular stars. In addition, it has particular appeal in areas of the world where close-knit families make up the fabric of the society. Eduardo Echeverria, who oversees the Latin American region for Fox, told the Times: "At the end of the day, it's a story of a family ... and Latins are very family-oriented. ... We're a poor region where parents usually take their families once to see a film."

CABLE SYSTEMS TO OFFER INDIE FILMS VIA VIDEO-ON-DEMAND

In what could represent a reprieve -- if not a boon -- for struggling independent filmmakers, Sundance Channel is launching a video-on-demand service that will make independent, documentary, and foreign-language films available in 50 million households often on the same day they are released in art-house theaters. The service will debut on August 26 with Spike Lee's Passing Strange: The Movie; the Australian animated film Mary and Max; and Alexis Dos Santos's Unmade Beds, which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival. Joshua Sapan, CEO of Rainbow Media Holdings, which owns the Sundance Channel, told Reuters: "I do see a time in the not too distant future when [video-on-demand] sales for films like these dramatically surpasses theatrical revenue ... and some of these movies will be released with VOD only."

IT'S A (FINALLY) DONE DEAL BETWEEN DREAMWORKS AND RELIANCE

In a deal that seemed to take forever-and-a-day to conclude, Steven Spielberg's DreamWorks and India's Reliance ADA Group finally signed the final documents that puts financing for Steven Spielberg's new studio in place. Reliance will contribute $325 million to DreamWorks funding, with an equal amount coming from an investment group led by JPMorgan Securities. An additional $175 million comes as a loan from the Walt Disney Co., which will receive worldwide distribution rights, except in India, where Reliance will distribute. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, Stacey Snider, Spielberg's partner at DreamWorks, observed, "We got the funding in an environment where credit has been almost impossible to secure."

Cinemark Movie Club