i>KNIGHT, MUMMY FALL BEHIND FORECASTS

The box office wasn't quite so hardy on Sunday as studios had estimated, with several releases coming in somewhat below forecasts. Warner Bros.' As a result, The Dark Knight, which had been expected to earn $43.8 million for the weekend, wound up with $42.7 million, and Universal's The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, which had been expected to earn $42.5 million, actually came in at $40.5 million. The revised numbers appeared to suggest that the Batman sequel would likely not pass the $400-million mark until today (Tuesday) rather than Monday, as several analysts had forecast. Meanwhile, on MSNBC.com, film commentator Erik Lundegaard argued that there is little chance that The Dark Knight will be able to challenge Titanic for the title of the highest-grossing movie in history. Suggesting that from here on out the movie will depend on repeat business if it is to gross $600 million -- as Titanic did -- Lundegaard commented, "Fanboys are fanboys, but there are no repeat customers like teenage girls in love with Leonardo DiCaprio." Lundegaard notes that the fall-off in ticket sales for Knight closely mirrors that of last year's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. If it continues to remain the same, he observed, Knight will probably end up with a domestic total of $515 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. The Dark Knight, Warner Bros., $42,664,219, 3 Wks. ($393,751,065); 2. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Universal, $40,457,770, (New); 3. Step Brothers, Sony, $16,506,526, 2 Wks. ($63,172,026); 4. Mamma Mia!, Universal, $12,615,515, 3 Wks. ($87,470,125); 5. Journey to the Center of the Earth, Warner Bros., $6,662,406, 4 Wks. ($72,927,314); 6. Swing Vote, Disney, $6,230,669, (New); 7. Hancock, Sony, $5,087,756, 5 Wks. ($215,883,222); 8. WALL-E, Disney, $4,603,179, 6 Wks. ($204,078,076); 9. The X-Files: I Want to Believe, Fox, $3,385,878, 2 Wks. ($17,021,373); 10. Space Chimps, Fox, $2,720,177, 3 Wks. ($21,971,016).

BRITISH CENSORS TAKE HEAT OVER DARK KNIGHT RATING

The decision of the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) to issue a "12A" rating to The Dark Knight that allows it to be seen by children 12 and under if accompanied by a parent has been denounced by members of both the Conservative and Labor parties. Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith wrote that he was "astonished" by the "relentlessly violent" nature of the film when he went to see it with his 15-year-old daughter. "Unlike past Batman films, where the villains were somewhat surreal and comical figures, Heath Ledger's Joker is a brilliantly acted but very credible psychopathic killer, who extols the use of knives to kill and disfigure his victims during a reign of urban terrorism laced with torture," he remarked. Labor MP Keith Vaz, commented, "The BBFC should realize there are scenes of gratuitous violence in The Dark Knight to which I would certainly not take my 11-year-old daughter." But Sue Clark, a spokeswoman for the BBFC, responded that the film was "a fantasy movie with only implied violence." She added that if the board had raised the classification, "We would have ended up with far more complaints from people who wanted to see the film and couldn't."

NO INFORAL TALKS, SAYS AMPTP

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on Monday denied claims by Screen Actors Guild National Executive Director Doug Allen that AMPTP members are engaging in informal talks with SAG on a new contract. "No meetings, formal or informal, regarding these negotiations have taken place ... and no meetings are pending," the AMPTP statement said. The group, however, appeared to open the door a crack to the possibility of a resumption of formal talks. "The AMPTP is always interested in exploring ways to reach an agreement, and if SAG has an approach that's consistent with the parameters of our June 30 final offer, then we are open to hearing that," it said.

BLUE AND GOLD KIOSKS GOING UP

By the end of next year Blockbuster plans to install some 10,000 kiosks in supermarkets, convenience stores, drug stores, malls, fast-food outlets and the like at which customers can rent or buy DVDs, the company said Monday. In a joint news release with NCR, which is providing the machines, Blockbuster said that the kiosks will initially only provide DVD rentals but will eventually allow consumers to purchase DVDs and video games. The company is challenging Redbox, owned by Coinstar and McDonald's, which currently operates about 9,600 DVD kiosks nationally.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.