HOLIDAY BOX-OFFICE BATTLE TO CONTINUE

The same films that have been battling it out at the box office since the holiday week began on Monday will be doing so through the weekend, with DreamWorks/Paramount's Transformers expected to climb well beyond the $100-million mark. The film, which opened with preview screenings on Monday, has been racking up weekend-like numbers ever since and had already reached $84.92 million by Thursday. (Wednesday's $27.9-million gross for the film represented a single-day record for a July 4th holiday.) Meanwhile, Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille, which got off to a relatively tame start last weekend, appeared to be gaining momentum as it exceeded mid-week ticket sales for earlier Pixar-produced features. By Thursday, its combined gross came to $80.61 million. Although running third in the box-office race, 20th Century Fox's Live Free and Die Hard was also scoring solid results, ringing up an estimated $66.84 million as it entered the weekend. In a somewhat limited release, Michael Moore's Sicko plans to increase its theater count to 703. Its per-theater gross had been second only to Transformers throughout the week. By Thursday, it had grossed $7.61 million. Meanwhile, on Thursday Sicko producer Meghan O'Hara denied reports that Moore plans to attend a documentary film festival in Iran, where Sicko is due to be screened in October. O'Hara claimed that the reports had been circulated "by conservative opponents of Michael who would rather make up stories out of whole cloth than actually engage in a debate on the merits of our broken health care system or why it is that George W. Bush took us to war in Iraq."

LAST REEL OF POTTER TO SCREEN IN 3-D AT IMAX HOUSES

Moviegoers attending screenings of the upcoming Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in IMAX theaters will be able to view the last 20 minutes of the movie in 3-D, the New York Post reported today (Friday), citing Veronika Kwan-Rubinek of Warner Bros. International. The process is similar to the one used in IMAX screenings of last year's Superman Returns and requires a painstaking frame-by-frame conversion.

FIRST ARREST UNDER TOUGH NEW N.Y. PIRACY LAW

A Bronx man who took his video camera with him to Monday night's preview of Transformers has become the first person arrested under a new New York City piracy law that went into effect last month. If convicted, Kalidou Diallo faces a possible six-month jail sentence and/or a fine of up to $5,000. The previous law called for a maximum 15-day sentence and a top fine of $250. Theater employees at the American Movie Theater in Parkchester had been alerted that police were planning a sting since digital fingerprints on other bootlegged movies had been traced to the theater. "The movie companies ... knew it was coming from our theater," manager Justin Hill told today's (Friday) New York Daily News. "We were taking heat for it because we weren't catching anyone." In a statement, MPAA chief Dan Glickman said, "The New York City economy has much to gain by tackling the monumental problem of movie piracy, and we are especially grateful to the members of the NYPD's Organized Crime Control Bureau for pursuing these crimes with the diligence they require."

DVD SALES FALL FOR FIRSST TIME

For the first time since DVDs debuted more than a decade ago, sales are down compared with last year. Home Media magazine reported Thursday that sales for the first half of the year have reached $6.8 billion, down 3 percent from the $7 billion for the first six months of last year. Home video executives blamed a weak slate of movies released during the period and said they expect the decline to be offset by a slew of summer blockbusters that are due to hit the shelves in the final quarter of the year, including Spider-Man III, Shrek the Third, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.

SHOOTER AIMS FOR THE TOP

The Mark Wahlberg thriller Shooter from Paramount Home Entertainment took over the top spot on both the DVD sales and rental charts last week. As with most new DVD No. 1 releases, which have been having a tough time holding on to that position in their second week of release, Disney's Bridge to Terabithia slipped to second place on both charts. In something of a surprise, 20th Century Fox's Night at the Museum, which was released 10 weeks ago and which had fallen to ninth place last week, scampered back up the sales chart to No. 3.

GERMANY BLASTS CRUISE FLICK, THEN GIVES IT $6.5 MILLION

In an action that appeared politically schizophrenic, the German Federal Film Fund agreed on Thursday to contribute $6.5 million to the funding of Tom Cruise's Valkyrie, just one day after the German Finance Ministry turned down an application by the production company to shoot key scenes of the film at a historic location. In the movie, Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who headed the so-called Generals' Plot to assassinate Hitler during World War II, but some German politicians -- and the son of von Stauffenberg -- have objected to Cruise portraying von Stauffenberg because of the actor's association with Scientology. A spokesperson for the film fund said Thursday that it granted the subsidy because "the criteria for the grant were fulfilled." Production is scheduled to begin in Berlin on July 18.
Cinemark Movie Club

Brian B.