WOMEN LIFT MOVIE SALES

With many of Sunday's box-office estimates ticking upwards, the first weekend of February maintained January's red-hot pace, with ticket sales up 38 percent over the comparable weekend a year ago. He's Just Not That Into You not only beat analysts' expectations but Warner Bros.'s Sunday estimate as well, winding up with $27.8 million, 80 percent of it contributed by women. Even more impressive was the $16.8 million earned by the 3-D claymation-animated Coraline, which earned 70 percent of its total from the 44 percent of theaters showing it in 3-D. MGM's second effort to revive its Pink Panther franchise took a pratfall worthy of its detective hero Clouseau, winding up with just $11.6 million, about half what its 2006 predecessor took in. A fourth new entry, Summit Entertainment's sci-fi thriller Push earned $10.1 million, about what was predicted for it. (Reviews were dreadful. Roger Ebert remarked in the Chicago Sun-Times: "Push has vibrant cinematography and decent acting, but I'm blasted if I know what it's about." And Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Times likewise described it as "painfully inscrutable.") Meanwhile, last week's winner, Taken, dropped just 17 percent to add another $20.5 million to its total. Overall, the top 12 films at the box office grossed $131.4 million compared with $89.7 million for the samże weekend last year.

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. He's Just Not That Into You, Warner Bros., $27,785,487, (New); 2. Taken, 20th Century Fox, $20,547,346, 2 Wks. ($53,610,944); 3. Coraline, Focus Films, $16,849,640, (New); 4. Pink Panther 2, Sony/MGM, $11,588,150, (New); 5. Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Sony, $10,884,825, 4 Wks. ($96,886,687); 6. Push, Summit Entertainment, $10,079,109, (New); 7. Slumdog Millionaire, Fox Searchlight, $7,177,270, 13 Wks. ($77,203,055); 8. Gran Torino, Warner Bros., $7,155,339, 9 Wks. ($120,195,197); 9. The Uninvited, DreamWorks/Paramount, $6,262,651, 3 Wks. ($18,242,141); 10. Hotel for Dogs, Paramount, $5,711,229, 3 Wks. ($55,125,062).

DREAMWORKS COMPLETES DEAL WITH DISNEY

DreamWorks fittingly will become part of the enterprise that promoted wishing upon a star. The company headed by Steven Spielberg and the Walt Disney Co. said that they had signed a distribution deal similar to the one Disney had with Pixar before it bought the digital animation company. Word leaked over the weekend that DreamWorks' deal with Universal had come apart and that DreamWorks executives were returning to the negotiating table with Disney. Ties between DreamWorks and Universal were apparently not cut completely, however; today's (Tuesday) Daily Variety reported that DreamWorks will continue using the Universal lot as its production base. Precise terms of the deal were not disclosed, and Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook said that reports that Disney will earn at least an 8 percent fee off the grosses of DreamWorks films and will lend the company $150 million were not "entirely accurate. ... That was from some old proposals or old deals along the way," he told Reuters. Conٰfusing matters for the general public is that DreamWorks Animation is not included in the deal. Its films, which will compete directly with Disney's animated fare, will continue to be distributed by Paramount.

50-YEAR-OLD PFEIFFER SAYS AGE NO BARRIER IN MOVIES

At the Berlin Film Festival, Michelle Pfeiffer, who turns 51 in April but looks half her age, fielded numerous questions concerning her growing old and the opportunities for older actresses in movies. Promoting her latest film, Cheri, directed by Stephen Frears, in which she portrays a 19th century courtesan who initiates a young man into sex and has a six-year affair with him, she remarked that the many recent films in which older actresses appear opposite younger actors is "a positive step in the right direction." To another reporter's question about whether she found reaching middle age "liberating," she replied that it made her "more grateful for what you have, and you really count your blessings." Asked about the perception that older actresses have difficulty finding jobs in Hollywood, she said that her own experience refutes that notion. "It is true that the older you get the fewer parts there are, but at the same time there are fewer movies being made and there are fewer parts for actors in general." Still, she said, becoming older has allowed her to do what she enjoys most -- "character work." And, she observed, "The ol׿der you get, the roles you get actually become more interesting."