BOX OFFICE SOARS

The box office continued on its winning way last weekend, chalking up sales rarely seen in January. Despite the gloomy economy and a cold snap that would ordinarily have discouraged moviegoers from lining up in front of ticket booths, the top 12 films grossed $129.5 million, up 10.59 percent from the $117.1 million it took in during the comparable week a year ago. Revenue for the entire month is up 22 percent from a year ago, while attendance was up 21 percent. The top film at the box office was the second week of Sony's Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which took in $21.6 million, down just 32 percent from its opening weekend. Placing a close second was Sony's vampire flick, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, with $20.8 million. Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino also performed strongly, tallying $16.2 million and bringing its gross close to the $100-million mark. On a per theater basis, it outperformed the two films in front of it. And Fox Searchlight's Slumdog Millionaire moved up to No. 5 on the box-office chart with $10.7 million, thanks to a wider release and publicity surrounding its 10 Oscar nominations.

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. Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Sony, $21,623,182, 2 Wks. ($64,923,380); 2. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Sony, $20,828,511, (New); 3. Gran Torino, Warner Bros., $16,244,462, 7 Wks. ($97,819,975); 4. Hotel For Dogs, Paramount, $12,860,944, 2 Wks. ($37,455,759); 5. Slumdog Millionaire, Fox Searchlight, $10,699,629, 11 Wks. ($56,065,245); 6. My Bloody Valentine 3-D, Lionsgate, $10,012,658, 2 Wks. ($37,687,394); 7. Inkheart, Warner Bros., $7,601,379, (New); 8. Bride Wars, 20th Century Fox, $6,868,664, 3 Wks. ($48,570,928); 9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Paramount, $6,085,919, 5 Wks. ($111,129,482); 10. Notorious, Fox Searchlight, $5,779,692, 2 Wks. ($31,874,538).

PUSH SHOVES ITS WAY TO TOP HONORS AT SUNDANCE

Fans and judges were in agreement at the Sundance Film Festival as Push, starring an unknown actress from Harlem and featuring Mariah Carey in a supporting role, won both the Grand Jury prize for U.S. dramatic films and the top Audience Prize. The lead character in Push, played by Gabourney "Gabby" Sidibe, is a 16-year-old obese girl named Precious Jones, who is raped by her father and beaten by her mother, yet manages to escape from that environment. It is based on a best-selling novel by a former adult educator in Harem who writes under the name Sapphire. In the World Cinema competition, the top prize went to the Chilean film La Nan (The Maid), directed by Sebastián Silva.

AUSTRALIA BECOMES MOST-PIRATED MOVIE

Baz Luhrman's Australia may have disappointed at the box office, but it is currently the most-downloaded movie on pirate websites, according to TorrentFreak. The movie, captured on camcorders, first appeared on the pirate sites more than a month ago, despite studio efforts to block such activity, including handing out night-vision glasses to the staffs of movie theaters. But few people downloaded it. However, during the past week, a version in "DVD quality" became available online, and users quickly went after it, making it the No. 1 downloaded film on the pirate sites. TorrentFreak said that the new version came from "an insider."

AMPAS SUES COMPANY FOR $175,000 OSCAR PACKAGE

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has sued an Arizona-based company, experience 6, which has advertised a $175,000 package that includes four tickets to the Oscars and a hotel stay in Los Angeles. The lawsuit claims that Experience 6 was engaging in selling black-market tickets, since ticket holders had been notified that only they can use them. "In offering such black-market tickets, defendants are misleading the public and the ticket buyers into thinking that purchasers will be welcomed guests, rather than as trespassers, when they arrive for the ceremony," the lawsuit said.

NETFLIX PROFITS TAKE OFF

Although virtually every other major media company was reporting disappointing earnings -- and some of them, significant losses -- during the fourth quarter of 2008, Netflix said Monday that its net income rose 45 percent to $22.7 million versus $15.7 million during the comparable quarter a year ago. The online movie rental service attributed the surprising jump to its newly introduced online streaming service, which, it said, helped add 718,000 new subscribers to its base, bringing it to 9.4 million. In a conference call with analysts on Monday, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said, "It's very clear that streaming is energizing our growth." Thus far, however, movies that can be streamed online do not include the latest DVD release, but Hastings indicated that the company is working with the studios in an effort to provide more content.