i>KNIGHT SLAYS ANOTHER RECORD

The Dark Knight lithely scaled another difficult hurdle at the box office this weekend, easily becoming the first movie in history to earn $300 million in 10 days. The Warner Bros. movie took in an estimated $75.6 million domestically to bring its total to $314 million since its debut on July 18, according to box-office trackers Media by Numbers. The Will Ferrell comedy Step Brothers opened in second place with about $30 million, while another new film, The X-Files: I Want to Believe earned an unbelievably low $10 million (although a Fox spokesman maintained that the figure was "within our reasonable expectations"). Some analysts marveled at the continued strength of The Dark Knight, with several noting that it was doing an amazing amount of repeat business. The film may not be done setting box-office records, as Media by Numbers President Paul Dergarabedian observed in an interview with Bloomberg News. He predicted that the film would become the first to hit $400 million in 18 days. "We're looking here at what could be Titanic-style numbers of a $600-million domestic box office," he said.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. The Dark Knight, $75.63 million; 2. Step Brothers, $30 million; 3. Mamma Mia! $17.9 million; 4. The X-Files: I Want to Believe, $10.2 million; 5. Journey to the Center of the Earth, $9.4 million; 6. Hancock, $8.2 million; 7. WALL-E, $6.3 million; 8. Hellboy II: The Golden Army, $4.9 million; 9. Space Chimps, $4.4 million; 10. Wanted, $2.7 million.

WARNER'S LAUNCHES ANTI-PIRACY CAMPAIGN FOR DARK KNIGHT

In advance of the release of The Dark Knight, Warner Bros. launched an unprecedented anti-piracy effort to prevent copies of the movie from being uploaded onto file-share websites and being distributed on DVD, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Monday). According to the newspaper, the studio set up a "chain of custody" system so that studio executives could keep track of who had prints of the movie and where they were at any given moment. The film reels were delivered in staggered shipments so that a complete version was not available in theaters until the last moment. Exhibitors in Australia, where the film opened two days in advance of its U.S. premiere, were given special night-vision goggles to help spot anyone in the audience attempting to camcord the movie. The strategy, according to the Times, kept any print of The Dark Night off the internet for 30 hours -- enough time to allow it to break box-office records in its first weekend. In an interview with the Times, Darcy Antonellis, president of Warner's distribution and technical operations, said, "A day or two becomes really, really significant. You've delayed disc manufacturing that then delays distribution,which then delays those discs from ending up on street corners for sale." (Many of those who buy bootlegged films insist that they are among the most devoted movie theater customers.)

NETFLIX SUCCESSFULLY BATTLES RECESSION

Netflix appears to be thriving despite of the current recession -- or possibly because of it. The online video renter saw its subscriber rate rise 25 percent from its year-ago rate growth. Some analysts attributed the growth to people looking for less expensive entertainment as the current recession grips the country. Other analysts suggested that Netflix may have been helped by the introduction of a streaming service in May that allows users to view movies on their TV sets with the aid of an inexpensive settop box, the Netflix Player, developed by Roku. Net income for the company rose only 3.8 percent to $26.6 million from $25.6 million, leading analysts to suspect that some Netflix customers may be downgrading their subscriptions to receive fewer movies each month than they had previously.

SAG BOARD VOTES TO REJECT AMPTP'S FINAL OFFER

The current standoff between the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers seemed certain to continue indefinitely as the union's board on Saturday unanimously voted to reject the AMPTP's "final offer." The AMPTP responded that it has no intention of altering the offer and pointed out that SAG members are the only ones in the industry who are not receiving the additional pay raises and benefits that it agreed to pay other union members. The AMPTP has placed a counter on its website displaying the amount of lost wages and residuals to SAG members sine the stalemate began. SAG disputes the figures.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.