WAL-MART SIGNS DOWNLOADING DEAL WITH STUDIOS

Wal-Mart has reached an agreement with each of the major motion picture studios to sell movies that can be downloaded from its website (www.walmart.com/videodownloads), the New York Times reported today. Three other websites, including Amazon.com, CinemaNow, and iTunes currently offer movie downloads, but none of them includes films from all of the major studios, including Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox, and Universal. In reporting the deal, the Times observed: "Given the chain's penchant for price cutting, could drive down the cost of a digital download." Initially it will charge $12.88 to $19.88 on the day of a DVD release; older movies will be priced at about $7.50; TV shows, at $1.96 per episode, about the same prices as other download websites and about the same as those for DVDs sold in the stores.

FAMILY FEUD ENDS AS REDSTONE SETTLES SON'S LAWSUIT

Apparently ending an embarrassing family feud, Sumner Redstone, whose National Amusements company controls Viacom and CBS, has settled a lawsuit filed by his son Brent. In the lawsuit, filed one year ago, the younger Redstone had claimed that his father and sister Shari had frozen him out of the decision-making process at National Amusements, in which Brent, like Shari, holds a one-sixth interest. The stakes were placed in a trust that Brent and Shari could not access. At the time the suit was filed, National issued a statement saying that it was "unfortunate that Brent Redstone is abusing the court system in an attempt to extract a financial settlement in a family dispute." Word of the settlement, which first appeared on the Wall Street Journal's website on Sunday, contained few details, except that 80 percent of National Amusements will now be owned by Sumner Redstone and 20 percent by Shari. Brent's one-sixth interest in the company, said to be worth about $1.5 billion, was repurchased by National Amusements, the Journal said.

DISNEY AND ZEMECKIS TO CREATE 3-D COMPANY

Director Robert Zemeckis, whose The Polar Express and Monster House were released in the 3-D IMAX format, is teaming up with the Walt Disney Co. to create a new company that will produce additional 3-D features, Disney announced Monday. "The creation of this new company is yet another step in our leadership role in cutting edge technology as it relates to the movie industry." Disney Studios chairman Dick Cook said in a statement. Zemeckis is currently working on a 3-D version of the classic Beowulf. On Monday, Daily Variety reported that the number of screens equipped to show 3-D films is expected to double from about 250 to 500 worldwide in the next two months and rise to 1,000 by the end of the year.

THE MESSENGERS: SONY PHONES IT IN

The victory of Sony/Screen Gems's The Messengers at the box office last weekend marked the seventh consecutive Super Bowl weekend that a Sony Pictures film had nabbed the lead, the Los Angeles Times observed today (Tuesday). Like this year, three other years starting in 2001 were led by horror flicks, including last year's When a Stranger Calls. "Super Bowl weekend is kind of a party weekend, and these kinds of films get the party started," Sony distribution chief Rory Bruer told the newspaper. As usual for horror films, slightly more than half the audience was under 21 and female. The film took in $14.7 million. In second place was another female-skewing film, Because I Said So, starring Diane Keaton. Its audience turned out to be 82 percent female and 61 percent over the age of 30. It took in $13.1 million.

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. The Messengers, Sony/Screen Gems, $14,713,321, (New); 2. Because I Said So, Universal, $13,122,865, (New); 3. Epic Movie, 20th Century Fox, $8,411,993, 2 Wks. ($29,555,556); 4. Night at the Museum, 20th Century Fox, $6,385,843, 6 Wks. ($225,001,335); 5. Smokin' Aces, Universal, $6,113,345, 2 Wks. ($24,744,300); 6. Stomp the Yard, Screen Gems, $4,055,791, 4 Wks. ($55,857,184); 7. Dreamgirls, Paramount, $4,000,521, 7 Wks. ($92,748,249); 8. Pan's Labyrinth, Picture House, $3,682,699, 6 Wks. ($21,715,849); 9. The Pursuit of Happyness, Sony, $2,966,454, 7 Wks. ($157,217,102); 10. The Queen, Miramax, $2,650,134, 18 Wks. ($45,461,958).

PARAMOUNT SETS DATE FOR INDY'S RETURN

Paramount plans to release the next Indiana Jones sequel on Thursday, May 22, 2008, according to the BoxOfficeMojo website, which cited no sources. It said that the studio is now referring to the film as Fourth Installment of the Indiana Jones Adventure.

Brian B.