MOVIEGOERS DIG GOLD

It may have received some of the worst reviews of the year, but Warner Bros.' Fool's Gold, starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey wound up with $22 million at the box office over the weekend, according to Media by Numbers. The film beat out the Martin Lawrence comedy Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins from Universal, which opened in second place with $17.1 million. Disney's Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, last weekend's top movie, slipped to third place with $10.5 million but remained tops on a per-theater basis. Overall, the weekend's top 12 films grossed $91.4 million, a fraction less than the $91.8 million recorded for the comparable weekend a year ago.

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. Fool's Gold, Warner Bros., $22,010,000, (New); 2. Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins, Universal, $17,126,725, (New); 3. Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, Disney, $10,508,000, 2 Wks., ($53,390,000); 4. The Eye, Lionsgate, $5,530,000, 2 Wks. ($21,520,000); 5. Juno, Fox Searchlight, $5,725,000, 10 Wks. ($117,629,958); 6. 27 Dresses, 20th Century Fox, $5,700,000, 4 Wks., ($65,258,790); 7. The Bucket List, Warner Bros., $5,340,000, 8 Wks., ($75,058,000); 8. Rambo, Lionsgate, $4,110,000, 3 Wks., ($36,510,000); 9. Meet the Spartans, 20th Century Fox, $4,075,000, 3 Wks., ($33,915,289); 10. There Will Be Blood, Paramount Vantage, $4,073,080, 7 Wks., ($26,782,363).

TOLKIEN ESTATE SUES NEW LINE OVER RINGS ACCOUNTS

In the latest lawsuit against a studio alleging fraudulent accounting practices, the estate of Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien, along with publisher HarperCollins, has claimed that it has not received the 7.5 percent of gross receipts that New Line Cinema, the Rings' film producer, was obligated to pay. The plaintiffs, who are seeking $150 million, are also demanding the right to withdraw other Tolkien books from their deal with the studio, including The Hobbit. In two earlier lawsuits, Rings director, Peter Jackson and producer Saul Zaentz also claimed separately that they had not received their cut of the receipts. Jackson settled his suit in December. Zaentz's suit is still pending. In a similar move on Monday, Benedict Fitzgerald, who wrote The Passion of the Christ, filed a lawsuit against Mel Gibson and his Icon Productions, claiming that Gibson led him to believe that the movie would be produced on a shoestring budget and that there would be little money for the script. In fact, Fitzgerald claimed, the film cost $30 million to make and grossed over $600 million worldwide. He did not indicate how much he had been paid for the script.

NEW STAR WARS FEATURE COMING TO THEATERS

Lucasfilm plans to introduce its upcoming animated TV series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars with a 90-minute 3-D theatrical version on August 15, the company said Monday. Somewhat surprisingly, the film will be released by Warner Bros. rather than 20th Century Fox, which released all of the previous Star Wars features. The TV series, however, will air on the Cartoon Network, a corporate sibling of Warner Bros. In a statement, Warner distribution chief Dan Fellman said, "This is a breakthrough project, returning Star Wars to the big screen in a completely new way while beginning an exciting new chapter in George Lucas's legendary saga. We immediately felt that it would be a fantastic theatrical event and are thrilled to be bringing it to moviegoers."

HD DVD TAKES ONE-TWO PUNCH

Toshiba's HD DVD high-definition home-video system was dealt two new blows Monday after online renter Netflix said it will distribute movies released in the Blu-ray system exclusively and retailer Best Buy said that it will discontinue selling HD DVD players beginning next month. In a statement, Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix, said, "From the Netflix perspective, focusing on one format will enable us to create the best experience for subscribers." Separately, Brian Dunn, Best Buy's president and COO said. "Our decision to shine a spotlight on Blu-ray Disc players and other Blu-ray products is a strong signal to our customers that we believe Blu-ray is the right format choice for them." Of the major studios, only Paramount/DreamWorks and Universal continue to produce HD DVD discs.

SONY GATHERS EMINENT PANEL TO WEIGH BERLINALE DOCUMENTARY

Sony Pictures Classics has scheduled an unusual -- and perhaps unprecedented -- panel discussion at the Berlin Film Festival to discuss S.O.P.: Standard Operating Procedure, Oscar-winning documentary maker Errol Morris's film about the Abu Ghraib prison, which is entered into competition at the festival. The film's slated premiere today (Tuesday) is due to be followed on Wednesday by the discussion titled, "Diplomacy in the Age of Terror: The Impact of Diminished Rule of Law on International Relations." Panelists include Dr. Allen Keller, an NYU professor of medicine and founder of the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture; German Human Rights lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck; former British Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith; Financial Times editor Lionel Barber; and Herta Däubler-Gmelin, chairman of the Bundestag's committee on human rights. Morris, who described S.O.P. at a Berlin news conference today as a "non-fiction horror film," had previously won awards for such documentaries as The Thin Blue Line, A Brief History of Time, and The Fog of War.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.