i>HANCOCK HAS SUPER DEBUT

Sony's Hancock showed the strength of a superhero in its debut on Tuesday, grossing $6.8 million during two screenings in 3,680 theaters. (It adds 280 more this weekend.) While the preview screenings took in more than an earlier superhero movie, Iron Man, in May ($5.5 million), it fell well below last year's previews of Transformers ($8.8 million), which set the stage for a Fourth of July holiday haul of $155.4 million. Box-office forecasters are predicting that Hancock should wind up with $100-120 million through Sunday. However, many analysts are waiting to see how word-of-mouth will affect the film. Reviews of the film were mostly negative, and if audiences react the way the critics did, ticket sales could drop by Sunday. Meanwhile, Disney-Pixar's WALL-E continued to pick up steam, actually earning more than Hancock on Tuesday ($7.6 million), and although it played throughout the day, a large percentage of its tickets were sold at discounted children's prices.

SAG, AMPTP ADJOURN TALKS UNTIL NEXT WEEK

Representatives of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers met for four hours on Wednesday with leaders of the Screen Actors Guild to answer questions about their final offer to the union. The AMPTP later issued a statement saying that the union had asked for more time to study the offer and would contact the producers on Monday. "We remain hopeful that SAG will advise that it is accepting our final offer. No further meetings are scheduled," the statement said. A formal response from SAG is not expected until after AFTRA announces the results of its ratification vote on Tuesday. Meanwhile, SAG members manned the phones Wednesday, phoning fellow members who also hold AFTRA union cards to urge them to vote down the "terrible contract" that AFTRA had negotiated with the AMPTP. Other dual cardholders received a recorded phone message from Sean Penn, which said that the AFTRA deal amounted to "corporate appeasement."

DID PARAMOUNT DO ENOUGH TO PROTECT KIDS IN KITE RUNNER?

Paramount Pictures is being criticized for the way it has dealt with the Afghan children who appeared in director Marc Forster's critically praised film The Kite Runner. Although the studio located four of the young actors and their families or guardians to Dubai for their safety before the movie was released, at least one, 12-year-old Zakria Ebrahimi, who stars in the film, has been forced to return but has become the target of gangs who say that the film denigrates the Afghan culture, according to a report broadcast Wednesday by National Public Radio. (Although banned in Afghanistan, the movie has been distributed on pirated DVDs.) The boy's guardian and aunt, Waheeda Ebrahimi told NPR that she and Zakria had to leave Dubai because their passports had expired and that the small stipends and $400-a-month job she was offered were not enough to support her family. In Kabul, she said, schoolmates threatened to kill Zakria for appearing in the movie and a gang attempted to force their way into her home. Rich Klein, whose consulting firm was hired by Paramount to relocate the families of the stars, told NPR, "I don't think anybody is happy with the fact that ... Zakria is not doing well." However, he added that his family needs to be realistic about what Paramount can do for them.

THE FLY: THE OPERA

David Cronenberg has successfully transposed his 1986 horror movie The Fly into an opera with music by the film's composer, Howard Shore (best known for his Lord of the Rings score), and a 75-piece orchestra conducted by famed tenor Placido Domingo. The production received a standing ovation at its opening in Paris Wednesday night, according to published reports. It is due to play for two weeks in Paris before moving on to Los Angeles in September.

WEINSTEIN-ROTH PHONE CONVERSATION DISCLOSED

The writer of a book about Miramax founders Harvey and Bob Weinstein has sent the New York Post a 1996 recording of a telephone conversation between Harvey Weinstein, whose company had been acquired by Disney, and Joe Roth, then president of Walt Disney Studios. In it, the two jokingly discuss the decision by the Walt Disney Co. to pay Michael Ovitz $140 million to leave the company. Part of the conversation appears in the Post's "Page Six" column: "Please fire me," Weinstein quips. "I'll split whatever I get. ... If you don't fire me, then I think we should make bad movies next year. Let's make a series of [bleep]y movies." Roth replies: "I obviously made a mistake. I made good movies." Harvey says, "Joe, you are a success, so therefore you are a failure in this town." The two then name several top producers who won huge golden parachutes. "Everybody got wealthy on failure," Weinstein says. Roth replies: "You know what the problem is with you and me? We care about the movies." Weinstein laughs: "We have character flaws that must be overcome."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.