Dumbfounding box-office prognosticators, Paul Blart: Mall Cop, starring Kevin James (King of Queens), opened in first place with $33.8 million in ticket sales over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The film's take, which far exceeded predictions, helped lead the box office into record territory for a January weekend again. Total revenue was up a whopping 29 percent from the same weekend a year ago, according to Media by Numbers, with revenue for the month now up 25 percent over last year. Mall Cop's victory pushed last week's winner, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino,into second place with $22.2 million, although it dropped only 25 percent from its opening weekend. In third place was Lionsgate's My Bloody Valentine 3D.The film was not screened for critics, and surprisingly few of them went to see the movie over the weekend. Those who did review it agreed that the 3-D images significantly aided a movie that had little in the way of plot or performance. Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Timescommented, "From the moment you duck a flying mandible and gaze, mesmerized, at a severed hand oozing two inches from your nose, you'll be convinced that the extra dimension was worth seeking out." But Mark Olsen wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "The effects here can be startling, but after a while the minor thrill of the trick is gone. How often can the evil miner swing his mighty pickax straight toward the camera?"

{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. Paul Blart: Mall Cop, $33.8 million; 2. Gran Torino, $22.2 million; 3. My Bloody Valentine 3-D, $21.9 million; 4. Notorious, $21.5 million; 5. Hotel for Dogs, $17.7 million; 6. Bride Wars, $11.75 million; 7. The Unborn, $9.8 million; 8. Defiance, $9.2 million; 9. Marley & Me, $6.3 million; 10. Slumdog Millionaire, $5.9 million.


Studio executives are likely to consider reviving the practice of opening so-called urban films on Wednesdays instead of Fridays following at least two violent incidents connected with the screening of Notoriousover the weekend. (The movie placed fourth on the box-office list of top earners with $21.5 million.) One man was gunned down during an argument over the movie at a theater in Greensboro, NC. Actor Jamal Woolard, who plays the Notorious B.I.G. in the film, was attending the screening at the time of the shooting, according to police. The theater later announced that it had indefinitely suspended all future showings of Notorious. And at an after-the-movie party in New York City, four men were stabbed at the Djumbala nightclub in Brooklyn.


A controversial documentary about a Polish colonel who smuggled over 40,000 pages of secret Warsaw Pact documents to the U.S. during the Cold War had its U.S. premiere at CIA headquarters outside Washington D.C. last month, the website Film New Europe reported today (Monday). The website, which tracks movie production in Eastern Europe, reported that the Dec. 11 screening of director Dariusz Jablonski's War Games was attended only by active CIA agents and was followed by a discussion of the film that included CIA Director Michael Hayden, who praised the film's subject, Colonel Ryszard Kuklinski. "The Americans call him a hero, the Russians a traitor, and Poles are divided in their opinions, making his case still one of the most burning topics in Polish history and politics," the website observed. The movie is due to open in Warsaw on Friday.


A youth organization affiliated with the Swedish Pirate Party received some $162,000 from the Swedish government Friday under a program to fund political youth organizations, the website Torrent Freak reported Saturday. Ung Pirat ("Young Pirate"), which advocates what it calls file sharing and copyright reform, claims that it already is the third largest political youth organization in Sweden -- and growing. In a statement, Ung Pirat Chairman Stefan Flod said that the government award "is truly gratifying and show what we are achieving with our politics." However, Lars Gustafsson, CEO of a record company group in Sweden, was quoted by TorrentFreak as saying, "It is surprising. Ung Pirat works in principle to encourage something illegal. That they then receive money from a state institution is remarkable,"


Joaquin Phoenix, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in the Johnny Cash biopic Walk the Line,has now adopted the persona of a rap artist, and his recent performances in Las Vegas, NV and Culver City, CA have been lampooned by the celebrity website TMZ. The website has posted clips of the nearly unrecognizable Phoenix, paunchy and bearded, clumsily imitating the gestures of hip-hop performers and being nearly drowned out by the noise from the crowd watching him. "The guy just quit acting to become a rock star," TMZ commented on the Culver City clip, "and if this freestyle disaster is any clue as to how his music career will go, let's just say it's DOA." As for the Las Vegas clip, it remarked, "The delusional former actor has given up a promising career for a Federline future" (a reference to Britney Spears's former husband, whose efforts to launch a career as a hip-hop star -- "K-Fed" -- never got past the starting gate).