i>DARK KNIGHT DIRECTOR PUZZLED BY SUCCESS

The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan has told reporters in Tokyo that he has no idea why his Batman movie is breaking box-office records. "I would not be able to point to exactly what it is," he said. "If I knew that all my films would have been successful." Final weekend figures confirmed Monday that the movie has broken yet another record -- best second-week performance of any film. The movie earned $75.2 million, which brought its 10-day total to more than $300 million, according to box-office trackers Media by Numbers. (The results somewhat diminished the achievement of Sony's Hancock, starring Will Smith, which crossed the $200-million mark after four weeks.) The film is now taking aim at Titanic's record of $600.8 million in ticket sales -- by far the top money maker of all time.

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. The Dark Knight, Warner Bros., $75,166,466, 2 Wks. ($313,781,677); 2. Step Brothers, Sony, $30,940,732, (New); 3. Mamma Mia!, Universal, $17,746,725, 2 Wks. ($62,595,465); 4. The X-Files: I Want to Believe, 20th Century Fox, $10,021,753, (New); 5. Journey to the Center of the Earth, Warner Bros., $9,717,217, 3 Wks. ($60,487,455); 6. Hancock,Sony, $8,311,123, 3 Wks. ($206,482,007); 7. WALL-E, Disney, $6,422,186, 5 Wks. ($195,308,076); 8. Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, Universal, $5,100,305, 3 Wks. ($66,059,925); 9. Space Chimps, 20th Century Fox, $4,536,838, 2 Wks. ($16,167,380); 10. Wanted, Universal, $2,738,550, 5 Wks. ($128,627,405).

FIVE U.S. FILMS TO COMPETE AT VENICE

Five U.S. films are among the 21 that will compete for the prestigious Golden Lion award at the 65th annual Venice Film Festival, the Biennale, scheduled to run from Aug. 27 to Sept. 6. At a news conference, festival organizers announced that among the films participating in the competition will be Darren Aronofsky's The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke, Marisa Tomei and Evan Rachel Wood; Guillermo Ariaga's The Burning Plain, starring Kim Basinger and Charlize Theron; Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker, starring Ralph Fiennes; Jonathan Demme's Rachel Getting Married, starring Anne Hathaway and Rosemarie DeWitt; and Amir Naderi's Vegas: Based on a True Story. (Little could be learned about the latter film, whose title is almost identical to Brett Ratner's Breaking Vegas: Based on a True Story, which was released earlier this year. A news story earlier this year said that Naderi was working on a film titled Digging in Vegas.) In addition, four films from Italy and four from Japan will participate in the competition. The Japanese films include Takeshi Kitano's Achilles and the Tortoise and Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, from famed Japanese (hand) animator Hayao Miyazaki, about a fish who falls in love with a boy and uses magic to become human. Mamuro Oshii's The Sky Crawlers, another Japanese film entered in the competition, is also animated. The festival's opening film is the Coen brothers' Burn After Reading starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and John Malkovich.

PANASONIC TV SETS FLY OFF SHELVES

Suggesting that the recession is no obstacle to home theater enthusiasts, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., which makes consumer-electronics items under the Panasonic label, reported today (Tuesday) that its net income soared 86 percent in its first quarter, which ended on June 30. The company said that its profits hit $679 million, helped primarily by sales of big-screen digital television sets. By contrast Sony said today that its profit fell 47 percent, blaming not only diminished sales growth in its electronics unit but also sharply lower box-office receipts than last year, when the company's film studio was riding high on profits from Spider-Man 3.

Brian B.