FIREWORKS OVER THE BOX OFFICE

The long 4th of July holiday got off to a rousing start as Paramount/DreamWorks' Transformers opened with $8.8 million with just a single 8:00 p.m. preview screening in about 3,000 theaters Monday, then followed up with $27.45 million on its "official" opening Tuesday -- the biggest Tuesday opening in history. "It certainly looks like a great way to start," DreamWorks spokesman Marvin Levy told the Associated Press. "It's a case when you have robots like this, they act like magnets to draw audiences into theaters." In second place with $7.5 million on Monday and $7.9 million on Tuesday was Disney-Pixar's Ratatouille, which had opened over the weekend. Fox's Live Free or Die Hard was also pulling in audiences with $4.3 million on Monday and $4.5 million on Tuesday.

MOVIE GALLERY SHARES CRATER

Shares in Movie Gallery, the country's largest movie-rental company behind Blockbuster, dropped well below $1.00 per share on the NASDAQ Tuesday after the company indicated that it was unable to pay interest to some of its lenders for the previous quarter. Faced with competition from online movie renters like Netflix and Amazon, Movie Gallery has seen an uninterrupted decline in its business -- particularly since it acquired the Hollywood Video stores for $850 million in April of 2005. For the first time, Movie Gallery disclosed that it is considering putting the company up for sale. Nevertheless, it said, it will remain open for business at all of its stores -- even while considering closing unprofitable outlets and consolidating stores in other markets. On Tuesday, Movie Gallery opened at 48 cents on the NASDAQ, an all-time low, and closed at 66 cents -- down 60 percent from Monday. If the stock remains below $1.00 per share for 30 days, it could be delisted.

FILM BANNED IN THAILAND NO. 1 IN FRANCE

Only days after it was banned by the Bangkok Film Festival, the animated film Persepolis made a sensational debut in France over the weekend, coming in ahead of a slew of Hollywood blockbusters to earn $1.8 million in 199 theaters -- or an average of $9,152 per theater. In May the film by directors Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud took the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. But, bowing to pressure from Iranian officials who objected to its depiction of an Iranian girl's struggle during the turmoil of the Islamic revolution and its aftermath, organizers of the Bangkok Film Festival yanked the film last week. It had been expected to open the festival on July 19. Instead, the festival is expected to announce this week that the opening film will be Andy Vajna's Children of Glory (Szabadság, szerelem), set during the aftermath of another revolution, Hungary's unsuccessful attempt to achieve independence from the Soviet Union in 1956.

CRUISE FILM PROVOKES MORE CONTROVERSY IN GERMANY

Tom Cruise's Valkyrie has become a political hot-potato in Germany. After the German Defense Ministry had announced last week that it would not permit the United Artists film to be shot on military sites in the country because of Cruise's association with Scientology, it suddenly reversed itself following a public outcry and said that it would agree to the filming pending approval by the Finance Ministry. However, on Tuesday, the Finance Ministry said that it would not allow filming at a key location -- the Bendlerblock building in Berlin where Col. Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg (played by Cruise in the movie) was executed for plotting the assassination of Adolf Hitler in 1944. The ministry said that the building "would lose dignity if we were to exploit it as a film set." But writing in the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Tuesday, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, director of the Oscar-winning Lives of Others, responded that Cruise's "superstar light would illuminate this rare shining moment in the darkest chapter of our history. In doing so, he would do more to improve Germany's international image than 10 World Cups could ever do."

CANADIAN ANTI-CAMCORDING LAW QUICKLY TAKES EFFECT

A new anti-camcording law has gone into effect under "royal assent" in Canada just three weeks after it was introduced in the legislature. The law makes camcording a movie in a theater a crime, punishable by a two-year sentence; doing so for sale carries a possible five-year sentence. In an interview with the Canadian Press, Pat Marshall, a spokesperson for exhibitor Cineplex Entertainment, said that the challenge to Canadian theater owners is to communicate to local law enforcement that "they have the tools necessary to be able to respond to our calls" about camcording. But Constable William McKay of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told the wire service, "You can't have a police officer in every movie theater ... so it comes down to the public and the operators of the cinema to do their bit."
Cinemark Movie Club

Brian B.