A SURPRISE WEDNESDAY WINNER AT BOX OFFICE

The first day of the long Independence Day weekend began at the box-office with a victory not for Transformers 2 and not for Public Enemies, the two films that were expected to be the primary contenders for first place. Instead, the hands-down winner was the 20th Century Fox animated 3D feature Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, which grossed an estimated $14 million in its debut. Transformers -- last weekend's winner, which had also piled up huge grosses on Monday and Tuesday -- fell to $10 million on Wednesday, its eighth day of release. Universal's Public Enemies arrived with $8 million. Box office analysts, however, were issuing cautious predictions about the total five-day holiday, pointing out that kids were out of school for summer vacation on Wednesday, skewing the results. Moreover, the actual Fourth of July holiday this year comes on a Saturday -- ordinarily the week's busiest day at the box office -- when picnics and backyard barbecues are likely to draw audiences away from theaters.

WEINSTEIN SAYS PUBLIC ENEMIES IS THE FILM TO BEAT

Producer Harvey Weinstein, generally regarded in the movie business as a genius when it comes to flogging his own films in the race for Oscar nominations, has already identified the movie to beat in 2009. It's Public Enemies, according to Weinstein. And the actor to beat is Johnny Depp. And the director is Michael Mann. In a review posted in TheDailyBeast.com, where he is a regular contributor, Weinstein, who was not involved in the production of Public Enemies, writes that with its release on Wednesday, "the Oscar race is officially on." Of Depp's performance, Weinstein comments that it displays his range as an actor. "It's the leading man as a character actor; it's the character actor as the leading man. It's the awareness, the silences ... but it's also the flinty, self-aware John Dillinger who knows what good public relations is." As for the director, he writes, "This is Michael Mann at the height of his height." Finally Weinstein urges moviegoers: "Bring your wits, your intelligence and your curiosity to the table and you'll be rewarded with a feast."

TRUE HI-DEF STREAMING LIKELY YEARS AWAY, SAYS REPORT

It is likely to be at least five years years before high-definition movies can be streamed to home theaters with the same resolution as Blu-ray discs, according to a study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and reported on the Video Business magazine's website. Although millions of homes are already connected to video services that claim to offer HDTV titles, via streaming, the quality doesn't even match that of standard DVDs and the "flow" is sometimes jerky. The problem in many cases is that most consumers' broadband connections are too slow to stream HD video which ideally requires an 18- to 20-megabits-per-second connection. (The average broadband subscriber's connection is about 2.5 mbps.) Meanwhile the video subscription service ZapMyTV has signed a deal with Paramount that will allow it to offer to its online customers such relatively new films as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Hotel for Dogs and such classics as Breakfast at Tiffany's and Ghost.

STRAIGHT-TO-DVD MOVIE WINDS UP AT NO. 1 IN RENTAL STORES

Ordinarily a movie that goes straight to video is regarded as being among the dregs of a studio's output, but last week, The Code, starring Morgan Freeman and Antonio Banderas, debuted at No. 1 on Home Media magazine's rental chart without ever seeing the light of a theater screen. In second place was Disney's Confessions of a Shopaholic, followed by Warner Bros.' Inkheart, which flopped in theaters. Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino, which held the top spot a week ago, fell to No. 4 this week. On the sales chart, Confessions was at the top, according to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert, while Gran Torino slid to second place.

SHAWSHANK COMING TO THE STAGE

Another movie is about to make the transition to the stage, published reports indicated on Wednesday. The Shawshank Redemption, which received seven Oscar nominations in 1994, is scheduled to premiere in London's West End in September, with Kevin Anderson in the role Tim Robbins played in the movie and Reg E. Cathey in the Morgan Freeman role. Anderson, a member of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater Company, is best known for his starring role as a conflicted priest in the controversial TV series Nothing Sacred. The play's director is Peter Sheridan. Both the movie and play are based on Stephen King's 1982 novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption.

Cinemark Movie Club