MOVIEGOERS OPEN TREASURE BOX

Without the distraction of last-minute Christmas shopping and family get-togethers, moviegoers returned to the theaters over the weekend to see the movies that they may have missed over last weekend's holiday. (No new movies opened wide.) The result was a second big weekend for Disney's National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which declined just 20 percent, to take in an estimated $35.6 million, bringing its 10-day total to $124 million. Surprisingly 20th Century Fox's Alvin and the Chipmunks pushed ahead of Warner Bros.' I Am Legend for second place with $30 million in ticket sales. Legend placed third with $27.5 million, bringing its total to $194.6 million and putting it on track to cross the $200-million mark today (Monday), as moviegoers return to theaters on New Year's eve. Charlie Wilson's War came in fourth with an estimated gross of $11.8 million. The film, which stars Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts and was directed by Mike Nichols, has been making steady progress since opening slowly last week. Widening its release to 998 theaters, Fox Searchlight's Juno placed fifth with $10.3 million, giving it a per-theater average of $10,321, a figure that exceeds the $9,290 per-theater average of Treasure. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the critically hailed There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, took in $185,525 in just two theaters -- that's $92,763 per theater. On the other hand, The Golden Compass and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story fell out of the top ten faster than most analysts had thought possible. The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. National Treasure: Book of Secrets, $35.6 million; 2. Alvin and the Chipmunks, $30 million; 3. I Am Legend, $27.5 million; 4. Charlie Wilson's War, $11.8 million; 5. Juno, $10.3 million; 6. Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem, $10.05 million; 7. The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, $9.2 million; 8. P.S. I Love You, $9.1 million; 9. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, $8 million; 10. Enchanted, $6.5 million.

LEGEND CONTINUES OVERSEAS

I Am Legend is proving to be as big a hit abroad as it has been domestically, raking in $46.1 million in 25 countries, Daily Variety reported today (Monday). The Will Smith movie was particularly impressive in Britain, where it launched with $21.8 million in 438 theaters -- or $49,772 per theater. In its second week overseas, Disney's National Treasure: Book of Secrets performed strongly, earning $21 million in 25 countries.

ACADEMY WANTS PICKFORD, ROGERS OSCARS

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is attempting to prevent the sale of three Oscars that were awarded to Mary Pickford and her husband Charles "Buddy" Rogers, the Associated Press reported Sunday. Rogers's second wife Beverly had indicated that she intends to sell the statuettes, but the Academy claims that under its rules it has the right to buy them back for $10 each. A judge on Friday ordered mediation of the lawsuit. In 2004 another judge ruled that the academy had no right to the Oscar that Orson Welles received for Citizen Caine, thereby allowing his daughter to proceed with a sale of the statuette. Pickford won a best actress Oscar in 1930 for Coquette and an honorary Oscar in 1976. Rogers received an Oscar for humanitarian work in 1986.

CHINA WARNS DIRECTORS OF FILMS WITH EROTIC SCENES

China's state-run Administration of Radio, Film and Television has warned Chinese film directors and studios that they will be subject to the "heaviest punishment" if they include erotic scenes in their features. "Violating studios might face the harshest punishment of revoking permits for shooting films," it added. Moreover, the censorship body warned, any film director submitting movies with erotic content to overseas film festivals could be subjected to a five-year ban from the movie industry, according to Beijing News. The newspaper listed the following banned content: rape, whoring, obscene sex exposing human genitals, or sex freaks, vulgar conversations, nasty songs and sound effects with sexual connotation. The director Ang Lee recently recut his film Lust, Caution for Chinese consumption to conform to state rules regarding erotic subject matter.

NOTE:

Studio Briefing will not be published on New Year's Day.

Brian B.