FIRST PIRATED HIGH-DEF MOVIE HITS THE WEB

The first pirated version of an HD DVD movie has made its appearance on the Internet. As first reported by the website Ars Technica, the sci-fi movie Serenity, encoded in MPEG-4 VC-1, takes up 19.6 GB on a hard drive. (It would take about a day to download over a typical broadband connection.) The appearance of Serenity on BitTorrent comes less than a month after a programmer calling himself Muslix64 said that he had been able to bypass the copy protection on an HD DVD disc and indicated that the same method could be used with Blu-ray discs as well. In its original posting, Ars Technica asked, "Now that the genie is out of the lamp, so to speak, what will the reaction be from the content industry?" Thus far, the Motion Picture Association of America has not yet commented."

MPAA TO REVISE RATINGS SYSTEM

The Motion Picture Association of America, always resistant to changes to its movie ratings system under its previous chief, Jack Valenti, is now planning to make some key alterations to the system, Daily Variety reported today (Wednesday). The trade paper said that the MPAA will now warn parents that some R-rated movies are not suitable for younger people -- whether or not they are accompanied by an adult. Another change will allow a filmmaker to cite scenes in another movie when appealing a severe rating. In an interview with Variety Dan Glickman, who succeed Valenti in 2004, said that the organization had been influenced by criticism of its ratings system presented in the documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated, which debuted at the Sundance film festival last year. Glickman plans to discuss the new revisions of the ratings rules with independent filmmakers attending this year's Sundance festival, which gets underway on Monday, Variety said.

PARAMOUNT TO EXPAND DREAMGIRLS THIS WEEKEND

Parmount, which initiated a so-called platform release of the Paramount/DreamWorks musical Dreamgirls last month, plans to increase the number of theaters showing it to more than 2000 next weekend, it said Tuesday. The move follows the film's selection as the best comedy/musical movie of 2006 at the Golden Globes awards Monday night. "With the Globes, you do get a lot of publicity -- especially when you win," Jim Tharp, Paramount's head of distribution, told today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Daily News. The film also won in the supporting actress/actor categories for Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy. Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office trackers Media By Numbers, told the newspaper, "I think Dreamgirls is going to bask in the afterglow of those Golden Globe wins." Meanwhile, Babel, which won the Golden Globe for best drama, is expected to expand from 173 theaters to at least 800, the Daily News said.

BOX-OFFICE RESULTS STOMP IN

Final box office results for the weekend, delayed because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday, were released Tuesday. They showed Sony Screen Gems' Stomp the Yard leading the field with $21.8 million. (It took in $25.9 million over the four-day holiday.) The movie replaced Night at the Museum, which had held the lead over the previous three weekends. The Ben Stiller comedy, which earned $17.1 million over the weekend, has now grossed $190.5 million and is poised to become the first $200-million movie of the new year by this weekend. Three other newcomers fared poorly. Universal's Alpha Dog opened with $6.4 million; Disney's Primeval took in $6.0 million; and MGM's Arthur and the Invisibles tanked with just $4.3 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. Stomp the Yard, Sony Screen Gems, $21,833,312, 1 Wk. ($25,876,318 (4 Days); 2. Night at the Museum, 20th Century Fox, $17,162,357, 4 Wks. ($190,503,618); 3. The Pursuit of Happyness, Sony, $8,901,206, 5 Wks. ($138,082,302); 4. Dreamgirls, Paramount/DreamWorks, $8,362,451, 5 Wks. ($67,101,078); 5. Freedom Writers, Paramount, $7,324,853, 3 Wks. ($20,172,832); 6. Alpha Dog, Universal, $6,412,775, 1 Wk. ($7,411,750 - 4 Days); 7. Children of Men, Universal, $6,371,335, 4 Wks. ($22,415,823); 8. Primeval, Disney, $6,048,315, 1 Wk. ($6,792,318 - 4 Days); 9. Arthur and the Invisibles, MGM, $4,294,936, 1 Wk. ($5,702,789 - 4 Days); 10. Charlotte's Web, Paramount, $3,786,488, 5 Wks. ($73,731,304).

Brian B.