HOT STREAK CONTINUES AT BOX OFFICE

Following a week in which several media conglomerates reported dismal quarterly earnings, the box office performed as if happy days were here again. The Warner Bros./New Line romantic comedy He's Just Not That Into You led with $27.5 million, 80 percent of that amount from female ticket buyers. "Women continue to drive box office in a big way," Media by Numbers President Paul Dergarabedian told today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times. "And we still continue to, mistakenly, underestimate the power of the female audience." The 3-D animated film Coraline, from Focus Features, also performed well above expectations, taking in $16.3 million to place third. Although 3-D theaters accounted for just 44 percent of theaters showing it, they represented more than 70 percent of the total take. The sci-fi flick Push opened with $10.2 million, about what was expected, and placed sixth. But a clear disappointment was the poor performance of the latest Pink Panther movie with Steve Martin. It opened in fourth place with $12 million, at the low end of expectations and could well put the MGM franchise back into mothballs again. Among holdover movies, Taken, last weekend's winner,dropped just 18 percent in its second week to slide to second place with $20.3 million, while Paul Blart: Mall Cop added another $11 million to its gross, which now stands at $97 million. It should easily cross the $100-million mark by next weekend.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. He's Just Not That Into You, $27.5 million; 2. Taken, $20.3 million; 3. Coraline, $16.3 million; 4. The Pink Panther 2, $12 million; 5. Paul Blart: Mall Cop, $11 million; 6. Push, $10.2 million; 7. Slumdog Millionaire, $7.4 million; 8. Gran Torino, $7.2 million; 9. The Uninvited, $6.4 million; 10. Hotel for Dogs, $5.8 million.

BUTTON BUTTONS UP OVERSEAS WIN

Overseas, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button dominated the box office with $31 million, which it raked in in 47 countries. (Four of them, France, Spain, Japan and the U.K., accounted for 55 percent of the total.) Button pushed Valkyrie, the Tom Cruise World War II thriller, into second place. Adding $11 million to its total, the film has now taken in $56 million abroad, to bring its worldwide total to $138 million.

DREAMWORKS FALLS OUT WITH UNIVERSAL; HEADS FOR DISNEY

Four months after announcing that they had reached a tentative agreement, DreamWorks and Universal have failed to finalize the deal. According to several reports, the deal came apart after DreamWorks was unable to come up with the required funds in the U.S. to match the $500 million that India's Reliance had agreed to put up to revive DreamWorks as an independent film company. When talks appeared to be collapsing between the two companies, DreamWorks secretly began talks with the Walt Disney Co. on a distribution deal, according to several published reports. (Last week Disney reported a 64-percent plunge in operating income for the last quarter.) Both DreamWorks and Disney declined to discuss the reports. Meanwhile, Universal issued a surprisingly tart statement saying that its deal with DreamWorks broke down because DreamWorks "demanded material changes to previously agreed-upon term." It added: "It is clear that DreamWorks' needs and Universal's business interests are no longer in alignment." Former L.A. Times/New York Times Hollywood reporter Sharon Waxman, who now operates the new industry blog The Wrap, quoted a Universal executive as saying that the studio is considering suing for breach of the original terms of the deal.

SLUMDOG WINS 7 BAFTA AWARDS

Slumdog Millionaire continued fetching awards over the weekend -- seven at the BAFTAs, the British equivalent of the Academy Awards, including best film and best director (Danny Boyle). Slumdog writer Simon Beaufoy also won for best adapted screenplay at the Writers Guild of America awards -- as he did at the BAFTAs. (The WGA award for best original screenplay at the WGA Awards went to Dustin Lance Black for Milk.) At the BAFTAs, Kate Winslet won the best actress award for her performance in The Reader, while Mickey Rourke took the best actor award for The Wrestler. The late Heath Ledger was awarded the supporting actor trophy for The Dark Knight, while Penélope Cruz took the supporting actress award for Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The awards ceremony was hosted by Jonathan Ross, who recently returned to the air after being suspended by the BBC for three months for making several on-air prank telephone calls to actor Andrew Sachs.

JAMES WHITMORE, FAMED FOR ONE-MAN SHOWS, DEAD AT 87

James Whitmore, who was the only actor ever to be nominated for an Oscar for a film in which he was the only performer, died Friday of lung cancer in Los Angeles at age 87. The film was Give 'Em Hell Harry, in which Whitmore portrayed Harry Truman. It was based on his one-man theatrical show about the 33rd president. He later portrayed Teddy Roosevelt in the stage and film one-man show, Bully and Will Rogers in the stage show Will Rogers' U.S.A.. In a career spanning seven decades, Whitmore appeared in scores of stage and TV shows and movies. In 2000 he won an Emmy for outstanding guest actor in a dramatic series for The Practice.

Cinemark Movie Club