DESPITE PIRACY, BOX OFFICE SETS RECORD

Media By Numbers President Paul Dergarabedian confirmed Monday that North American ticket sales for the summer had risen above the $4 billion mark for the first time in history. The gross exceeded the previous record of $3.95 billion set in 2004. However, Dergarabedian observed, the number of actual tickets sold was actually 4.8 percent below 2004's total. On average, movie fans paid 10 percent more for a ticket this year than they did three years ago, with prices rising an average of 30 cents this year alone -- the largest increase in seven years. Much of this year's success could be attributed to a slew of blockbuster "three-quels," Dergarabedian told Bloomberg News. "Hollywood will likely put out more sequels given the success this summer," he said. "There's a comfort factor with sequels for audiences. They know what they're getting."

SUPERBAD REIGNS OVER BOX OFFICE FOR SECOND WEEK

As is customary at the end of August, the box office lost steam over the weekend, with the top film, Superbad, hanging on to first place for the second week in a row with only $18 million, about half of what it earned the previous weekend. The fourth week of The Bourne Ultimatum took second place with $12.5 million, followed by Rush Hour 3 with $11.7 million. Of five films making their debut, only one made a solid impression. The Rowan Atkinson comedy Mr. Bean's Holiday placed fourth with $9.9 million at just 1,714 theaters -- accumulating an average per-theater gross that was only slightly below Superbad's. 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. Superbad, Sony, $18,044,369, 2 Wks. ($68,616,643); 2. The Bourne Ultimatum, Universal, $12,472,215, 4 Wks. ($185,253,615); 3. Rush Hour 3, New Line, $11,706,643, 3 Wks. ($108,469,646); 4. Mr. Bean's Holiday, Universal, $9,889,780, (New); 5. War, Lionsgate, $9,820,089, (New); 6 . The Nanny Diaries, MGM, $7,480,927, (New); 7 . The Simpsons Movie, 20th Century Fox, $4,317,689, 5 Wks. ($173,354,858); 8. Stardust, Paramount, $3,872,560, 3 Wks. ($26,374,432); 9. Hairspray, New Line, $3,265,384, 6 Wks. ($107,271,846); 10 . The Invasion, Warner Bros., $3,093,428, 2 Wks. ($11,468,121).

ACTORS IN ROW OVER CHUCK AND LARRY PLAGIARISM CHARGE

Australian actor Michael Caton says he was only making a "tongue in cheek" remark when he suggested that comedian Rob Schneider may have helped Adam Sandler plagiarize the Australian film Strange Bedfellows for Sandler's I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry. Both films are about two firefighters who pretend to be homosexuals in order to take advantage of tax benefits for gay couples. Caton, who co-starred in Bedfellows with Paul "Crocodile Dundee" Hogan, had told a recent news conference that he had given a copy of the movie to Schneider, who appears as an Asian minister in Larry. Caton appeared with Schneider in the 2001 film The Animal. Schneider responded by taking out an ad in the Sydney Morning Herald saying, "I am very flattered that you think that I am the one who chooses the films of Adam Sandler (currently the highest paid actor in the world). ... It is true you gave me a DVD copy of Strange Bedfellows, but I must confess I've never watched it, as it is not on the same format as I have." Caton responded today (Tuesday) that he hadn't brought up the matter -- reporters had. In a statement to the Herald, Caton added that he was only kidding when he said that he had emailed Schneider a message saying that if the reports about similarities between the two films are true, "tell Adam Sandler [that he] owes me one." He added that he has not seen Chuck and Larry. Nevertheless, the Herald reported that Shana Levine, one of the Bedfellows producers, is considering filing a copyright-infringement suit against the Chuck and Larry producers.

NEW CANADIAN ANTI-CAMORDING LAW FAILS TO HALT PIRATES

New Canadian laws imposing greater restrictions and penalties on theater patrons camcording movies from their seats have apparently had little effect in Montreal, where much of the illegal camcording takes place, according to Bloomberg News. Theater chain owner Vince Guzzo told the wire service, "I caught four people trying to camcord Pirates of the Caribbean. ... There are two types of people doing this: One type does it for kicks, then you have the professional criminal." But Michael Geist, a University of Ottawa professor and specialist in Internet law, noted that Hollywood continues to pile up enormous profits despite the piracy. "If camcording is a problem, it's a very small problem." And even those who acknowledge downloading movies illegally insist that they avoid the camcorded versions. An employee of a Montreal DVD shop told Bloomberg News: "Anytime I've seen a downloaded movie that's a pirated copy, it's really good quality, and those can only come from within the industry. ... Most people aren't going to watch camera jobs because they're really bad quality."

Brian B.