WANNA BUY A HOBBIT?

MGM is looking to raise as much as $600 million to finance an upcoming film slate, including Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit, additional Pink Panther comedies starring Steve Martin, and a remake of the 1980 musical Fame, Bloomberg News reported today (Tuesday). "In the past, movie studios haven't offered Wall Street the opportunity to participate in their biggest and best films," MGM spokesman Jeff Pryor told the wire service. "There is a lot of interest because of the quality of product we have." Only last month Paramount scrapped similar plans to raise $450 million from a unit of Germany's Deutsche Bank, blaming the current lending climate. The Deutsche Bank unit, set up specifically to invest in entertainment projects, was subsequently shut down.

MPAA DESCRIBES "OPERATION TAKEDOWN"

The MPAA on Monday announced the results of what it called Operation Takedown, a crackdown on piracy conducted in 12 countries of the Asia-Pacific region between May and July. "The operation resulted in the arrest of 461 suspected pirates 56 camcorders caught in the act, as well as seizures of more than 75 million pirated optical discs and 1,000 optical disc burners, capable of producing hundreds of thousands of pirated movies a year and potentially millions in illicit revenue," the MPAA said in a statement. More than half the burners were seized in Taiwan, it said, 329 in one location, representing "the biggest burner lab bust since 2004."

WILL YOU BE ABLE TO WATCH WATCHMEN?

Claiming that it bought the rights to DC Comics' The Watchmen in the 1980s, 20th Century Fox on Monday said that it will attempt to obtain an injunction to block Warner Bros., which owns DC Comics, from releasing an already-completed film based on the flawed superheroes. The film, directed by Zak Snyder (300) and starring Patrick Wilson and Jeffrey Dean Morgan is scheduled for release on March 6. Fox had sued Warner Bros. last February, and on Monday a federal judge refused to dismiss the lawsuit. L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke commented on her Dateline Hollywood Daily website, "This is indeed a stunning development which could imperil Warner Bros' entire 2009 movie slate." But legal experts interviewed by Wired magazine predicted a settlement under which Warner Bros. would go ahead with the release of the movie with Fox getting a piece of the revenue.

TROPIC THUNDER RUMBLES OVER DARK KNIGHT

The box-office began to settle into its usual end-of-summer blahs last weekend, with Tropic Thunder, the final blockbuster release of the season, leading the pack with just $25.8 million. Warner Bros.' previously unstoppable The Dark Knight couldn't even crack $20 million, winding up with $16.4 million in its fifth week (and also winding up on the No. 2 spot on the all-time list, behind Titanic). An animated Star Wars variation, Star Wars: The Clone Wars debuted with $14.6 million. Another newcomer, the horror flick Mirrors, which was not screened for critics, wound up with $11.2 million. Dropping from second to fifth place was Pineapple Express, which settled for $9.8 million. Overall, the top 12 films grossed $111.7 million, down 2 percent from last year's $114 million.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. Tropic Thunder, Paramount, $25,812,796, 1 Wk. ($36,845,588) -- From Wednesday); 2. The Dark Knight, Warner Bros., $16,379,293, 5 Wks. ($471,082,150); 3. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Warner Bros., $14,611,273, (New); 4. Mirrors, Fox, $11,161,074, (New); 5. Pineapple Express, Sony $9,808,295, 2 Wks. ($62,740,789); 6. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Universal, $8,205,720, 3 Wks. ($86,245,775); 7. Mamma Mia!, Universal, $6,096,250, 5 Wks. ($116,013,715); 8. Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2, Warner Bros., $5,785,250, 2 Wks. ($32,002,712); 9. Step Brothers, Sony, $4,807,904, 4 Wks. ($90,695,938); 10. Vicky Cristina Barcelona, MGM, $3,755,575, (New).

MOVIE REVIEWS: MIRRORS

The horror film Mirrors, starring Kiefer Sutherland of 24 fame, which opened without being screened for critics, was reviewed by them over the weekend. It received the expected pans. Mark Olsen in the Los Angeles Times called it "ridiculous" and added, "Mirrors reflects back nothing." Jeanette Catsoulis in the New York Times commented that Sutherland "is believably beleaguered, though not even as Jack Bauer did he ever pull a gun on a nun. It's good to see him stretch." But, addressing Sutherland, Roger Moore wrote in the Orlando Sentinel, "There's got to be more of an excuse for this than 'this is all I could line up for my hiatus from 24.'" And Bruce DeMara in the Toronto Star concluded "In a film that features scads of broken mirrors, the recipients of the proverbial bad luck seem to be those who unwisely bought a ticket."

Brian B.