i>TREASURE GROWS BY $55.4 MILLION

As expected, National Treasure: Book of Secrets remained No. 1 at the box office, taking in an estimated $55.4 million over the five-day New Year's holiday. What wasn't expected was the strong $42.2-million take of Alvin and the Chipmunks, which surged ahead of the Will Smith thriller I Am Legend, which slipped to third place with $38 million. (However, it crossed the $200-million mark in total sales, as it brought its gross to date to $205.1 million.) Also surprising analysts was the poor performance of 20th Century Fox's Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, which took in just $10.1 million. Charlie Wilson's War, which got off to a slow start, continued to show solid results as it tallied $20.5 million in ticket sales. And the comedy Juno made it into the top five with $15.7 million despite playing in just 1,014 theaters. (It posted the highest per-theater average among wide releases.) Opening in just two theaters in New York and Los Angeles, Paul Thomas Anderson's critically acclaimed There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis, sold out every performance and averaged $92,000 per theater. The holiday box office overall was up 7 percent over last year.

BOX OFFICE UP IN 2007 -- BUT NOT ADMISSIONS

The domestic box office tallied a record $9.68 billion in ticket sales during 2007, up 4 percent over 2006, according to box-office trackers Media By Numbers. However, the entire increase appeared to be the result of higher ticket prices, as the number of tickets sold remained virtually flat with last year at 1.42 billion and well off the 2002 modern-day record of 1.6 billion set in 2002. Meanwhile, Daily Variety reported that the six major studios grossed $9.4 billion in 2007, up 9 percent from last year.

MORE STUDIOS TO RENT MOVIES ON ITUNES

Apple is expected to announce at its MacWorld conference in San Francisco that Disney, Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM will make new and old movies available for "rent" on Apple's iTunes Store. according to several published reports. It had previously been reported that 20th Century Fox would also provide films that could be downloaded and viewed during a 30-day window. The MacWorld conference is due to take place from January 14-18.

TOP PIRATED FILM IN 2007: TRANSFORMERS

The No. 1 film downloaded illegally via BitTorrent over the past year was Transformers, according to the website TorrentFreak. Most of the top films were directed at young males. Knocked Up placed second, 300 third, and The Bourne Ultimatum fourth. The top TV shows downloaded at torrent sites was Heroes, followed by Battlestar Galactica, Lost, and 24.

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE KILLING OF JOHN LENNON

Some critics are of two minds about Andrew Piddington's The Killing of John Lennon, which opens in New York today (Wednesday). On the one hand, they all seem to agree that the writing, directing, and acting (newcomer Jonas Ball plays Lennon assassin Mark David Chapman) are superb. The subject matter is another thing. "If The Killing of John Lennon is a well-made film, it is also a total bummer," concludes Stephen Holden in the New York Times. Frank Scheck in the Hollywood Reporter suggests that the filmmakers were merely attempting to take advantage of Lennon's name, saying that while the movie "boasts an undeniable technical proficiency and historical authenticity ... [it] nonetheless has an unavoidably exploitative feel." Bruce Bennett in the New York Sun sums up: "I say it's exploitation, and I say the hell with it." But Jack Mathews in the New York Daily News calls the movie "riveting," and concludes, "Piddington does a beautiful balancing act, creating a movie that works both on the level of suspense and as a detailed factual chronicle."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.