SOAP FAILS TO CLEAN UP

Studios and entertainment analysts were doing some Monday morning quarterbacking yesterday over the failure of New Line's Snakes on a Plane to live up to expectations. Although it had been predicted to earn around $30 million -- largely as a result of "viral" Internet hype -- it ended up slinking off with about half that amount -- $15.2 million, including its earnings from 10:00 p.m. screenings on Thursday. Daily Variety, which was among those predicting a $30-million take, said that the results revealed "that what's important to the Internet crowd is not necessarily of interest to the general population." Similarly, Lew Harris, editorial director for Disney-owned Movies.com, told the Associated Press, "The buzz starts feeding on itself. People then start thinking this is appealing to a larger audience than it was." Today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Daily News pointed out that what was overlooked in all the industry hand-wringing over the disappointing performance of SOAP, was that Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest continued its remarkable performance, taking in an additional $5.2 million and becoming only the seventh movie in history to pass the $400-million mark. It also crossed the $500-million mark overseas to bring its worldwide gross to $922.7 million.

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

1 Snakes on a Plane, New Line, $15,206,301, (New); 2. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Sony, $13,755,387, 3 Wks. ($114,341,263); 3. World Trade Center, Paramount, $10,901,350, 2 Wks. ($45,105,868); 4. Step Up, Disney, $10,157,605, 2 Wks. ($39,738,435); 5. Accepted, Universal, $10,023,835, (New); 6. Barnyard, Paramount, $7,581,622, 3 Wks. ($46,088,273); 7. Little Miss Sunshine, Fox Searchlight, $5,610,845, 4 Wks. ($12,692,059); 8. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Disney, $5,212,351, 7 Wks. ($401,253,092); 9. Material Girls, MGM, $4,603,121, (New); 10. Pulse, Weinstein Co. $3,519,889, 2 Wks. ($14,695,988).

WARNER BROS. ANNOUNCES HUGE SLATE OF DIRECT-TO-DVD TITLES

Warner Bros. will produce an astounding 15 original movies a year under its Warner Premiere banner that will bypass theaters and go directly to DVD, the company announced Monday. Many of the films will be sequels, starting off with The Dukes of Hazzard II. In a statement, Kevin Tsujihara, president of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group, said, "With Warner Premiere, we're creating an additional stream of new, high-quality, fan-ready DVDs that will be supported by top-notch marketing to help them stand out in the increasingly crowded marketplace." The studio indicated that some or all of the titles will simultaneously be released for downloading via the Internet.

CANADA'S TOP FILM DISTRIBUTOR HIT BY INVESTOR REVOLT

Shares in Canada's biggest movie distributor, Motion Picture Distribution LP, plummeted 17 percent Monday on the Toronto Stock Exchange after analysts expressed alarm over the growing battle between former executives of the company and members of the company's board. Victor Loewy, who says he was forced out as chairman last month after refusing to fire two top executives as ordered by the board, is expected to announce Wednesday that he will launch a rival movie distribution company. Today's (Tuesday) Montreal Gazette said that no explanation for the dismissals was ever announced but that it was believe the trio were attempting to mount a management buyout. The newspaper noted that all of the company's deals with Hollywood studios are in jeopardy because they were all brokered by Loewy, who may already have lured New Line away from MPD.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.