i>APOCALYPTO SURPRISES AGAIN

Both Disney's Apocalypto and Warner Bros.' Happy Feet performed far better at the box office on Sunday than their respective studios had anticipated. Weekend estimates released on Sunday afternoon are based on actual receipts for Friday and Saturday and an educated guess by the studios on how well their films will do on Sunday. But Apocalypto, which Disney had expected would earn $14.2 million, actually earned a surprising $800,000 on top of that on Sunday, crossing the $15 million-mark. Likewise, Happy Feet tap-danced away with $12.9 million -- $200,000 more than expected -- to take second place on its fourth weekend. (One reader wrote us that he expected to see the headline "Happy Feet Has Legs.") That pushed Sony's debuting The Holiday to third place, as it took in some $700,000 less than the studio had estimated, a total of $12.8 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. Apocalypto, Disney, $15,005,604, 1 Wks. (New); 2. Happy Feet, Warner Bros., $12,904,413, 4 Wks. ($137,932,841); 3. The Holiday, Sony, $12,778,913, 1 Wks. (New); 4. Casino Royale, Sony, $8,926,207, 4 Wks. ($129,020,082); 5. Blood Diamond, Warner Bros., $8,648,324, 1 Wks. (New); 6. Déjà Vu, Disney, $6,019,672, 3 Wks. ($52,995,929); 7. Unaccompanied Minors, Warner Bros., $5,815,474, 2 Wks. (New); 8. The Nativity Story, New Line, $5,713,854, 2 Wks. ($15,907,450); 9. Deck the Halls, 20th Century Fox, $3,993,188, 3 Wks. ($30,144,903); 10. Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause, Disney, $3,254,729, 6 Wks. ($77,184,019).

SONY CREDITS MARKETING FOR RECORD RESULTS

With Sony Films seemingly poised to extend its record of 12 No. 1 opening weekends this year with the premiere of the Will Smith starrer The Pursuit of Happyness on Friday, the studio is crediting "a genuine synergy between marketing and production" for its success. In an interview with today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Daily News, Matt Tolmach, co-president of production at Sony, commented, "When we fall in love with a script, we have to consider if it's marketable or releasable and if they have a slot and if we feel confident about packaging the right stars in the right movie at the right time." Tolmach pointed to the $750-million worldwide gross of The De Vinci Code to underscore his point, describing it as "a huge selling piece of source material with built-in awareness." The studio's worldwide box-office take for the year has already exceeded $3 billion -- a figure that Media by Numbers president Paul Dergarabedian attributed not only to "great talent and great filmmakers" but also "a marketing and distribution team that is perfectly in sync with what the marketplace wants."

FEW PC OWNERS DOWNLOADING MOVIES -- LEGALLY OR OTHERWISE

Few people who watch the short video clips posted on such sites as YouTube, Yahoo!, and MySpace have downloaded full-length movies, according to a study by ABI Research reported by Informationweek.com Monday. The study found that of people who watch video on Internet only 5 percent have rented or bought a digital movie download. Even when taking into account those who download bootleg copies of movies, the percentage remains tiny, the study concluded. Most of those surveyed complained about the long wait time involved in downloading movies, the relatively high price charged by the movie sites, the fact that the "extras" that come with the DVD packages are generally not available online, and the difficulty of viewing the downloaded movies on television screens.

SALES PLUNGE AT ITUNES STORE, SAYS STUDY

Despite a huge increase in the sales of iPods this year and the addition of Disney movies to its offerings at the iTunes Store, Apple has experienced a plunge in revenue at the iTunes Store, according to Forrester Research and reported Monday by the British online technology publication The Register. According to the Forrester analysis, the iTunes service has seen monthly revenue fall 65 percent since January. Although analysts speculate that iPod buyers are likely transferring music from newly purchased CDs to the devices, Forrester ovserved that CD sales continue to fall, leading Forrester analysts to conclude that new iPod buyers are packing the devices with pirated content.

UNITED 93 FLIES HIGH WITH CRITICS

In the latest round of critics awards, both the New York Film Critics Circle and the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association named United 93 the top film of 2006.

BORAT WINS; COLLEGE STUDENTS LOSE

A Los Angeles judge has tossed out a lawsuit by a group of South Carolina college students who had sought to have a scene from Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan in which they appeared deleted from the forthcoming DVD version. The students are seen drinking and making racist remarks. They claim that they were duped into appearing in the movie and were assured that it would not be shown in the U.S. On Monday, Judge Joseph Biderman ruled that the students had failed to show a reasonable probability of success on the merits of their case.

WEBSITE UPLOADS 911 CALL RE NICOLE RICHIE'S WRONGWAY SPIN

The always enterprising celebrity gossip site TMZ, which was the first to report on Mel Gibson's arrest and subsequent racial tirade and the first to post video of Michael Richards blowup at a West Hollywood comedy club, quickly obtained the 911 dispatch tape in which motorists told of spotting a car driven by Nicole Richie going the wrong way on a freeway in Burbank, CA. She was later arrested on DUI charges.

Brian B.