i>SIMPSONS A HUGE HIT; ANALYSTS HAVE A COW

Demonstrating convincingly that movie audiences don't really care all that much whether an animated film is produced by human hands or by computers -- so long as the script is compelling -- the hand-drawn (in Korea) The Simpsons Movie took in an estimated $71.85 million over the weekend -- well above analysts' estimates. Twentieth Century Fox boasted that the movie opened with bigger box-office results than any Pixar film. (Among animated films, it was exceeded only by the first two Shrek movies.) It was responsible for 55 percent of all ticket sales overseas, piling up an additional $96 million although debuting in just 8 of the top-15 overseas markets. "I had been saying this is America's No. 1 comedy family, but forget the 'America' part -- this is the Earth's No. 1 comedy family," Chris Aronson, senior vice president for distribution at Fox, told today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times. Domestically, last week's top film, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, fell about 44 percent from last week to $19.1 million, slipping to second place. Three new films also made the top-ten list (two of them, just barely). No Reservations, the Catherine Zeta-Jones romantic comedy entered at No. 5 with $11.8 million, but the Lindsay Lohan starrer, I Know Who Killed me, seemed DOA at $3.4 million (Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News commented Saturday, that even Lohan's "mug shot was made with more skill than this bottom-of-the-barrel B-movie), while the urban comedy Who's Your Caddy? (Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe called for the United Negro College Fund to be alerted: "A mind has terribly gone to waste") ended in the rough with $2.9 million.

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

1. The Simpsons Movie, $71.9 million; 2. I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, $19.1 million; 3. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, $17.1 million; 4. Hairspray, $15.6 million; 5. No Reservations, $11.8 million; 6. Transformers, $11.5 million; 7. Ratatouille, $7.2 million; 8. Live Free or Die Hard, $5.4 million; 9. I Know Who Killed Me, $3.4 million; 10. Who's Your Caddy?, $2.9 million.

COLORIZATION ENDORSED BY LEGENDARY SPECIAL-EFFECTS GURU

The black-and-white 1957 sci-fi thriller 20 Million Miles to Earth, in which an "Ymir" from the planet Venus, is let loose following the crash-landing of a space ship, then grows to enormous size and threatens to destroy Rome, is set to be released on DVD Tuesday -- in color. The colorized version was supervised by legendary special-effects master Ray Harryhausen, who told today's (Monday) New York Post that the film's producers had originally wanted to shoot the film in color but weren't able to do so because of the expense. He expressed satisfaction with the new version of Earth, telling the Post that colorizing some older films "gives them a whole new life. ... People are prejudiced against colorization because the first ones, from 20 years ago, didn't look so good. But I'm very impressed with what they can do now."

DISNEY EXITS WINEMAKING BUSINESS

Only days after announcing that it was getting into the wine business by distributing a French Chardonnay under the brand name Ratatouille, Disney said Friday that it has canceled the project. It attributed its decision to "a trickle of inquiries and complaints." The Los Angeles Times on Saturday said they came from California winemakers and opponents of underage drinking. Disney spokesman Gary Foster acknowledged that the California Wine Institute, which represents 950 California vintners, has been "relentless in trying to make this an issue." However, he observed, "the entire movie is based on a French restaurant and French food and wine." A spokesman for the institute insisted, however, that the label appeared to violate "the spirit" of the institute's code barring any advertising that might promote underage drinking. "We would have been just as upset if it were a California wine," Nancy Light, an institute spokeswoman, told the Times.

ARGENTINEAN FILM WINS TOP AWARD AT BANGKOK FILM FESTIVAL

The Argentinean film XXY was awarded the Bangkok Film Festival's top prize, the Golden Kinnaree, Saturday night. The jury prize was won by China's Lost in Beijing, while James Lee's Before We Fall in Love Again won a separate all-Asian competition. Attendance at the Friday and Saturday screenings at the Central World multiplex rose, and seminars conducted on such issues as piracy and censorship were well attended despite remarks by panelists that seemed so pedantic that they matched the outdoor hot air (or, at any rate, so the English translation seemed). The censorship discussion on Saturday began with a film montage of comments on the issue from young people, ending with one young man denouncing dictatorship -- and being cut off. (Thailand is currently ruled by a military junta that seized power in a bloodless coup last September.) Meanwhile, the head of the Tourism Authority of Thailand said Sunday that while the TAT is pleased with the results of this year's festival it will need support from other government agencies to mount a large-scale film festival again next year. The budget of this year's festival was slashed by two-thirds from last year's.

FILM LEGEND INGMAR BERGMAN DEAD AT 89

Ingmar Bergman, one of the world's most influential -- and revered -- directors of the century died today (Monday) on Faro Island, Sweden at the age of 89. The cause of death was not immediately disclosed. Woody Allen once called him "probably the greatest film artist, all things considered, since the invention of the motion picture camera." In its obituary, the New York Times took note of the fact that critics regarded Bergman as "one of the directors -- the others being Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa -- who dominated the world of serious film making in the second half of the 20th century."

CAGE CO-STAR MICHEL SERRAULT DIES AT 79

Michel Serrault, best known in the U.S. for his 1978 performance as the transvestite nightclub owner Zaza Napoli in the original French movie La Cage Aux Folles, died Sunday of cancer in Honfleur, France at age 79. He appeared in some 130 films during his career.

Brian B.