Movie theaters throughout the country reported brisk business on Christmas Day and said that Marley & Mewas beating out the the Adam Sandler comedy Bedtime Stories, which box-office forecasters had regarded as a shoo-in to take first place. In an email message, box-office tracker Paul Dergarabedian of Media by Numbers said that it looked like the total box office for the day would be around $75 million, "which is pretty incredible." He added: "Obviously people love going to the movies on Christmas day and with virtually all other businesses closed, it creates a major opportunity for the film industry to grab a massive audience of people looking for something fun to do outside of the home on that day." In fact, Nikki Finke, who writes the Deadline Hollywood Daily blog, claimed today that Marley & Meand The Curious Case of Benjamin Button were each setting all-time records for the holiday. Citing unnamed studio sources, Finke said that Marleyearned $15 million on Christmas Day and Button,$11 million. Bedtime Storiescame in third with $10 million. Last year Alien vs. Predator: Requiemearned $9.5 million during its Christmas premiere. The current record for a Christmas opening is held by 2001's Ali, which earned $10.2 million.


In an addition to five wide releases opening over the holiday weekend, three other films are opening in limited release in order to qualify for Oscar nominations. The three are Revolutionary Road, Last Chance Harvey,and Waltz With Bashir.Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are getting mostly rave reviews for their performances in Revolutionary Road, which brings them together again for the first time since Titanic. "Winslet and DiCaprio have come a long way since the 1997 blockbuster; they've become consummate actors," writes Claudia Puig in USA Today.Speaking aboutDiCaprio, Manohla Dargis writes in the New York Times, "With his wide, uncertain, panicked face he shows you what a dreamer without a dream looks like." Of Winslet, Kenneth Turan writes in the Los Angeles Times, "Only a stone, frankly, would not be captured by the honesty and intensity of Winslet's performance, by the breathtaking way she throws herself into this lacerating emotional maelstrom." But the film itself, and director Sam Mendes fare less well among the critics. Indeed, Richard Schickel in Timemagazine brands it "dreadful." [Summaries of reviews for Last Chance Harveyand Waltz With Bashirwill appear here on Monday.]


Despite the fact that it has been more than ten years since Fox decided to abandon production based on the superheroes graphic novel Watchmen, a federal judge on Wednesday ruled that it continued to own a copyright interest in the project. He advised Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, which took over production of the film and plans to release its own Watchmenmovie on March 6, to negotiate a settlement with Fox or appeal his decision. It was unclear how the dispute might be settled, although the judge appeared to suggest a way in his opinion. "Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the Watchmenmotion picture," he said.


Harold Pinter, who wrote 32 stage plays, 22 screenplays, numerous TV plays and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005, died on Wednesday after an eight-year battle with cancer He was 78. His screenplays included The Quiller Memorandum(1965), The Last Tycoon (1976), The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Reunion(1989) and Sleuth (2007). Too frail to attend the Nobel Awards in 2005, he delivered his acceptance speech on video -- and used it to denounce America's invasion of Iraq, calling it "a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law." He went on to accuse the U.S. of supporting "every right-wing military dictatorship" and committing international crimes in the name of democracy. His obituary in today's (Friday) New York Times,written by theater critic Ben Brantley and the late Mel Gussow,runs a whopping 3,260 words.