DARK KNIGHT IS NOW A DARK HORSE

The Dark Knight, the most successful movie at the box office in 2008, may have been passed over by virtually all the critics groups for best film, but it did receive recognition from a group that really counts -- the Producers Guild of America. The PGA announced that Knight was one of five films nominated for its top award, the Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures, due to be presented on Jan. 24. The others are The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Milk, and Slumdog Millionaire. The Guild's nominees often mirror those chosen by Oscar voters, and the winner usually takes the best-film Oscar.

BOX OFFICE STARTS NEW YEAR IN FINE SHAPE

The four films that topped the Christmas holiday weekend, repeated over the New Year's weekend, final figures released by Media by Numbers revealed on Monday. Each of the films showed a relatively small decline in ticket sales from the earlier weekend, with 20th Century Fox's Marley & Me landing in first place with $24.3 million, a drop of 33 percent from the previous week. Bedtime Stories from Disney placed second with $20.5 million, a drop of just 25 percent. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which few had predicted would wind up as a box-office hit, placed third with $18.7 million, a drop of 30 percent. And Valkyrie, which gossip columnists had frequently attacked prior to its opening, took in a solid $14.1 million, a drop of 33 percent. Overall, the top-12 films at the box office grossed $131.15 million, versus $121.2 million for the top 12 during the same weekend a year ago -- an increase of 8.21 percent.

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. Marley & Me, 20th Century Fox, $24,263,763, 2 Wks. ($106,664,046); 2. Bedtime Stories, Disney, $20,501,339, 2 Wks. ($85,539,168); 3. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Paramount, $18,691,248, 2 Wks. ($79,297,086); 4. Valkyrie, MGM, $14,094,617, 2 Wks. ($60,743,921); 5. Yes Man, Warner Bros., $13,910,477, 3 Wks. ($79,507,388); 6. Seven Pounds, Sony, $10,068,518, 3 Wks. ($6,0147298); 7. The Tale of Despereaux, Universal, $6939295, 3 Wks. ($4,3661775); 8. The Day The Earth Stood Still, 20th Century Fox, $5,049,698, 4 Wks. ($74,424,256); 9. Doubt, Miramax, $5,000,893, 4 Wks. ($18,705,481); 10. Slumdog Millionaire, Fox Searchlight, $4,690,769, 8 Wks. ($28,676,598).

PRODUCER NED TANEN DEAD AT 77

Ned Tanen, who served as president of both Universal and Paramount studios, died Monday in Santa Monica at age 77, Daily Variety reported today (Tuesday). With Russ Regan, Tanen founded Uni Records in 1967, focusing initially on the psychedelic sounds of the mid-60s. After moving into film production, he brought to the screen such Universal films as Smokey and the Bandit, Coal Miner's Daughter and Melvin and Howard. As an independent producer (Chanel Productions), he turned out the brat-pack hits Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire. Moving to Paramount in 1984, he greenlit such films as Planes, Trains and Automobiles and The Untouchables.

DESPITE GRIM ECONOMY, BERLIN'S EUROPEAN FILM MARKET EXPANDS

Appearing to ignore the international economic downturn, the European Film Market, an adjunct to the Berlin Film Festival (or "Berlinale"), has sold out all its exhibit stands, even as it expanded its exhibit space, EFM Director Beki Probst said in a statement today (Tuesday). "All exhibit stands at both EFM locations are completely booked. Buyer and seller registrations from Europe are particularly stable at present," she said. Last month the festival indicated that it will be converting all video material into a uniform digital format for screenings at the festival and the film market.

Cinemark Movie Club