Extending its lead in the Oscar race, Slumdog Millionairereceived the top honor at the Producers Guild of America's awards ceremony on Saturday. Accepting the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award, British producer Christian Colson remarked, as reported by Daily Variety,"Some could argue that this is the film that shouldn't even have been made. There were no stars.... The budget was low, but not low enough. It was in Hindi. It was rated R. It wasn't possible to pitch in 20 words or less." Meanwhile, the Screen Actors Guild Sunday night also gave Slumdogits top award ("Best Ensemble Cast"). SAG selected Sean Penn as best actor for his performance in Milk and Meryl Streep as best actress for hers in Doubt. The late Heath Ledger was named best supporting actor for The Dark Night and Kate Winslet landed the best supporting female actor award for The Reader.


Paul Blart: Mall Cop hung on to the box-office lead for the second consecutive weekend as it earned an estimated $21.5 million to bring its total to $26 million. The low-budget film, which had been slotted into a release in January, ordinarily a quiet period at the box office, has far exceeded the rosiest predictions of studio executives and confounded critics, who pilloried it. "This movie was not made for the critics," Media by Numbers President Paul Dergarabedian told Reuters. "It was made for the audience, and that certainly paid off." He predicted that the movie will earn more than $100 million. The comedy barely edged out the horror flick Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, which took in an estimated $20.7 million. (The race between the two films appeared so tight that their positions could be reversed when final figures are released later today.) Meanwhile, the family film Inkheart, which had sat on Warner Bros.' shelves for more than a year, probably should have stayed there. It opened with only $7.7 million.

{@@@[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, $21.5 million; 2.Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, $20.7 million; 3. Gran Torino, $16 million; 4. Hotel for Dogs, $12.4 million; 5. Slumdog Millionaire, $10.6 million; 6. My Bloody Valentine 3-D, $10.1 million; 7.Inkheart, $7.7 million; 8. Bride Wars, $7 million; 9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, $6 million; 10. Notorious, $5.7 million.


Continuing to defy media experts who had predicted that his latest movie would be a disaster at the box office, Valkyriedebuted as the No. 1 attraction at the overseas box office over the weekend. According to trade reports, the movie earned an estimated $13.2 million in 13 countries. The film, which attracted enormous controversy in Germany even as it was being filmed in that country -- it concerns the World War II "generals' plot" to assassinate Hitler -- made its strongest showing at the German box office, where it took in about $3.4 million at 689 theaters. The film opened in second place in the U.K., however, despite a cast composed largely of veteran British actors. It was beaten out by the third week of Slumdog Millionaire, from British director Danny Boyle. Its opening in India -- the movie is set in the slums of Mumbai and the dialog is mostly in Hindi -- failed to impress as it collected just $1.9 million at 351 theaters. The film, which received 10 Oscar nominations and received the top film awards at the Producers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild over the weekend, was beaten out in India by a Hindi horror movie.


It might be argued that Frost/Nixon is something of a horror flick, but in that one Frank Langella's performance as Nixon received most of the applause from critics while they politely clapped for Michael Sheen's as interviewer David Frost. Now, in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans,it is Sheen who is being hailed for lifting what would ordinarily be considered a run-of-the-mill vampire movie into something almost legit. "The film offers few surprises other than Mr. Sheen's vigorous, physical performance," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times,who goes on to say that Sheen "becomes the movie's greatest asset. There is, as it turns out, some benefit to having a real performance even in a formulaic entertainment like this." Roger Moore in the Orlando Sentinelagrees that Sheen's performance makes the movie "worth watching." But Jason Anderson asks in the Toronto Star: "Why would a gifted thespian debase himself in such a manner? ... Alas, a paycheck must be mightier than any magical weapon in the gloomy, tedious Underworld universe."


Denying reports that appeared in China's state-run press last week, the Walt Disney Co. said today (Monday) that it has not concluded a deal to open a Disneyland theme park in Shanghai. Although Bill Ernest, head of Disney's Asian operations told Bloomberg News that he was "optimistic" that I deal would be struck, "we don't have a deal yet, and we don't have anything agreed to yet. We are still waiting."


Producer Charles Schneer, best known for his collaborations with legendary special-effects wiz Ray Harryhausen, died on January 21 in Boca Raton, FL at age 88, his daughter said Sunday. His films with Harryhausen included It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), 20 Million Miles to Earth(1957),The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), The 3 Worlds of Gulliver (1960),Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977), and Clash of the Titans (1981). Among his 25 films, he also produced Hellcats of the Navyin 1957, featuring Ronald Reagan and the then Nancy Davis, his future wife, in their only screen appearances together.