i>HAPPYNESS ROLLS LUCKY 13 FOR SONY

Box-office receipts for The Pursuit of Happyness were the source of happiness for Sony execs over the weekend as the film raked in $27 million in ticket sales, well ahead of expectations. The film, starring Will Smith, became the 13th Sony film to premiere as the No. 1 film at the box office this year, extending a record for the studio. Sony has earned more than $3 billion in worldwide box-office sales this year, divided almost equally between domestic and overseas receipts. Twentieth Century Fox's Eragon finished in second place with $23.5 million, at the high end of analysts' expectations. Most had predicted that it would take the weekend crown. Paramount's live-action version of Charlotte's Web placed third with $12 million. But the two films that battled it out for box-office domination last week -- Mel Gibson's Apocalypto and the Leonardo DiCaprio starrer Blood Diamond, suffered substantial drops, with Apocalypto plunging to sixth place with $7.7 million and Diamond to seventh with $6.3 million. In limited release, Paramount opened Dreamgirls in three theaters in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco ahead of its national release on Christmas. With ticket prices for the advance screenings set at $25, the film earned an astounding $360,000 -- an average of $120,000 per theater. Overall, the box office took in 8.3 percent less than it did a year ago, with the top 12 films earning $112.2 million, according to Media by Numbers.

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

1. The Pursuit of Happyness, $27 million; 2. Eragon, $23.45 million; 3. Charlotte's Web, $12 million; 4. Happy Feet, $8.5 million; 5. The Holiday, $8.2 million; 6. Apocalypto, $7.7 million; 7. Blood Diamond, $6.3 million; 8. Casino Royale, $5.7 million; 9. The Nativity Story, $4.7 million; 10. Unaccompanied Minors, $3.7 million.

TINKERBELL MOVIE LACKS MAGIC DUST

An apparent decision by Disney to delay release of The Tinkerbell Movie to 2008 or 2009 instead of 2007 is likely to have serious ramifications for Disney Consumer Products, which could lose some $500 million as a result of lost merchandise sales, according to Disney watcher Jim Hill. On his jimhillmedia.com website, Hill says that the direct-to-DVD movie was to have launched the company's latest franchise, Disney Fairies, and with it a substantial array of new toys that had been scheduled to hit retailers in October. Hill quotes his sources as saying that currently The Tinkerbell Movie is skewing too young -- appealing primarily to children 4-6 and that Disney is currently targeting tween girls for the Disney Fairies franchise -- a series of four "epic tales" involving the same characters to be released over a three-year period.

ARTHUR PENN TO BE HONORED IN BERLIN

Legendary director Arthur Penn has been selected to receive the Berlin Film Festival's lifetime achievement award on February 15. Penn, whose films include Bonnie and Clyde, The Miracle Worker, The Missouri Breaks and Night Moves, was selected because of the way his films "reanimated the crisis-ridden American cinema" in the late '60s and early '70s, festival director Dieter Kosslick said in a statement.

THE QUEEN APPROVES THE QUEEN

Queen Elizabeth has seen reportedly seen The Queen and has given it her tacit approval. Or so it would appear, following reports appearing in the British press that actress Helen Mirren, who stars as the monarch, along with director Stephen Frears, Producer Andy Harries, and writer Peter Morgan had received invitations by the queen's private secretary to have lunch at Buckingham Palace early next year. It was not disclosed whether the queen herself will attend.

Brian B.