BOX OFFICE: COOL WITH THUNDER

Paramount/DreamWorks' Tropic Thunder was no big shakes at the box office over the weekend, but its estimated $16.1-million take was enough to land it in first place for a second week, as it held off Sony's debuting The House Bunny with $15.1 million and UA's Death Race, which opened with $12.9 million. Another new film, MGM/The Weinstein Co.'s The Longshots, fumbled with just $4.3 million. Warner Bros.' The Dark Knight drew closer to the $500-million mark, dropping just 37 percent to $10.3 million over the weekend. Its total now stands at about $489 million. But the force was definitely not with Star Wars: The Clone Wars as it plummeted 61 percent to $5.7 million in its second week. Meanwhile, Focus Features' Hamlet 2 had a respectable debut at just 103 theaters, where it took in $435,294. It is due to expand to about 1,500 theaters on Wednesday. And Woody Allen's latest movie, Vicky Cristina Barcelona, from MGM/The Weinstein Co., dropped just 20 percent in its second week to $3 million at 692 theaters. Overall, ticket sales for the top 12 movies came to $88.4 million -- almost identical with the comparable weekend a year ago, according to Media by Numbers. However, attendance continued to decline. It's now off 4.5 percent from a year ago.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. Tropic Thunder, $16.1 million; 2. The House Bunny, $15.1 million; 3. Death Race, $12.3 million; 4. The Dark Knight, $10.3 million; 5. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, $5.7 million; 6. Pineapple Express, $5.6 million; 7. Mirrors, $4.9 million; 8. The Longshots, $4.304 million; 9. Mamma Mia!, $4.303 million; 10. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, $4.1 million.

BATMAN STAYS ON TOP OVERSEAS

Overseas, there was no stopping Batman. The Dark Knight grossed an estimated $34 million, to bring its overseas tally to $381.2 million. But in the U.K., the Universal musical Mamma Mia! continued to clean up, pulling in $3 million in its seventh week. Reuters reported that it now stands at No. 11 on the list of top-grossing films in British history.

WARNER BROS. SUES BOLLYWOOD FIRM OVER HARI PUTTAR

An Indian court today (Monday) is expected to hear a lawsuit brought by Warner Bros. against a Bollywood producer whose latest movie is titled Hari Puttar -- A Comedy of Terrors. Warner's claims that the title is too close to the titles of its Harry Potter movies. The movie, produced by Mumbai-based Mirchi Movies and due to be released on September 12, concerns a 10-year-old boy whose family moves to England. Britain's Guardian newspaper headlined its story about the matter, "Hari Puttar and the half-baked lawsuit?"

VUDU HEXED?

In more troubling news for the struggling online movie rental business, the website CE Pro said Friday that Vudu was laying off about 16-18 members of its 100-person staff, including co-founder Patrick Cosson, who had served as its marketing chief. A Vudu executive, Mark Donnigan, told the website that the firings were part of the normal process for a startup that expanded quickly. "We just have to figure out how to get back on track in terms of spending," he said. Earlier this month Vudu created a "bargain channel" that allows users of its settop box to stream a selection of 99 movies for just 99 cents each.

COPS INTERRUPT FILMING, HANDCUFF ACTORS

Filming of the independent movie 27 Down in North Andover, MA was halted unexpectedly Sunday after police descended on a gas station convenience store after receiving an alert that an armed robbery was taking place there. Director John Depew told KHAS-TV, "They came in and they said 'Drop the gun,' and I couldn't see the officer because he was behind [me]. ... I said, 'It's a movie, it's a movie -- we're filming a movie!'" Undeterred the officers handcuffed two of the actors. The store owner, Tracy Adley, later explained that a movie was being filmed and that the guns being used in it were made of plastic. He said he believed a customer called police as a hoax.

NASHVILLE PLANS TO BECOME "MOVIE CITY"

Plans are afoot to turn Nashville, which calls itself "Music City," into a preeminent movie production center as well. The Nashville Tennessean reported today (Monday) that the city's 821 Entertainment and Woodland, CA-based Tower Investments have proposed that the 117-acre site of the Tennessee State Fairgrounds be developed into a "media village" that would include a film studio, a 5,000-7,000-seat auditorium, a film school, a hotel, and retail stores. "This is about creating a whole new industry in Nashville," 821 co-founder Eric Geadelmann told the newspaper. He said that the studio ideally would provide the kind of productions generally associated with Nashville country and Christian music. "Our goal is to plant the heartland flag, to dominate those niches and build a lasting brand," he said.

Brian B.