Record crowds may have gathered on Washington D.C.'s Mall this week, but millions more packed theaters featuring a mall of a different sort -- the one in Sony's Paul Blart: Mall Cop. The movie, which cost just $26 million to produce, earned $39.2 million over the four-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and helped to push the box office to a new record for the holiday. Overall, ticket sales were up nearly 24 percent over the same weekend a year ago. Three other new films also drew bigger-than-predicted crowds. Most surprising was the $24.1-million take for My Bloody Valentine 3-D. Analysts had predicted that it would earn half that amount, but they perhaps did not reckon with the apparent willingness of moviegoers to pay premium prices to watch the movie in 3-D. About 80 percent of its gross came from the 1,033 theaters (out of 2,534) that showed it in 3-D. The biopic Notorious, about murdered rap star Notorious B.I.G.,earned nearly as much in just 1,638 theaters -- $23.4 million. And the family film Hotel for Dogs checked in with an equally surprising $22.9 million. Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, which topped the box-office list last weekend, came in second this weekend with $25.6 million, down just 24 percent from the previous week. And, after adding more awards and award nominations to its heap, Slumdog Millionaireearned $7 million, 55 percent above last weekend, on just 582 screens.

{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}The top ten films over the three-day weekend/four-day MLK holiday, according to final figures compiled by Media by Numbers (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1.Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Sony/Columbia , $31,832,636/$39,234,238, 1 Wk. ($39,234,238); 2. Gran Torino, Warner Bros., $21,979,069/$25,606,399, 6 Wks. ($76,603,810); 3. My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Lionsgate, $21,241,456/$24,103,962, 1 Wk. ($24,103,962); 4. Notorious, Fox Searchlight, $20,497,596/$23,393,472, 1 Wk. ($23,393,472); 5. Hotel For Dogs, Paramount, $17,012,212/$22865512, 1 Wk. ($22,865,51); 6. Bride Wars, Fox , $11,651,553/$13,878,727, 2 Wks. ($39,705,852); 7. The Unborn, Universal, $9,341,985/$10,545,075, 2 Wks. ($33,784,230); 8.Defiance, Paramount Vantage, $8,911,827/$10,510,082, 3 Wks. ($10,850,710); 9. Marley & Me, Fox, $6,138,859/$7,514,652, 4 Wks. ($13,392,3935); 10. Slumdog Millionaire, Fox Searchlight, $5,849,157/$7,021,727, 10 Wks. ($43,858,932).


Taking the fall for its parent, Warner Bros., which performed strongly at the box office last year, announced that it will let go 800 employees in its worldwide workforce as part of overall company cutbacks demanded by Time Warner. The figure represents 10 percent of the studio's staff. Other major studios, despite showing solid results during the past year, have also been forced to lay off hundreds of employees as their parent media conglomerates have been hit by the current economic downturn. In a memo to employees, Warner Bros. Co-chairmen Barry Meyer and Alan Horn said that they had agreed to reduce staff as "a last resort to help position the company for its future." They added: "The changing entertainment business landscape, shifting consumer demand and the overall state of the economy have affected companies around the world, and Warner Bros. is not immune to these factors."


A Los Angeles court hearing scheduled for today (Wednesday) on Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski's effort to have his 1977 rape case dismissed was put on hold Tuesday by a California appeals court. The 2nd District Court of Appeal halted the hearing in response to a motion by Polanski's attorney, who argued that the entire Los Angeles Superior Court has demonstrated bias against his client. That argument also formed the basis of a recent HBO documentary about the Polanski case, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.