HOLLYWOOD JOINS THE RECESSION

For the second weekend in a row, it was another tight race for the lead at the box office between Warner Bros.' The Hangover and Disney/Pixar's Up, with The Hangover again winning out. (The two films could be battling it out again for the lead next weekend, since the two newcomers, The Proposal, with Sandra Bullock, and Year One, with Jack Black, are each expected to earn only about $20 million.) The R-rated comedy took in $32.8 million, while the animated family film earned $2 million less. Meantime, The Taking of Pelham 123 arrived with $23.4 million -- significantly less than the studio's estimate on Sunday -- and Imagine That scraped up just $5.5 million, far less than what even the most gloomy forecasters had imagined. All in all, the results gave studio executives if not a hangover, then certainly a sort of lost weekend. The website BoxOfficeMojo.com reported that fewer people went to the movies last weekend than had done so on the comparable weekend in over ten years. And all the weekend's films combined took in 22 percent less than the same weekend a year ago. As a result, ticket sales for the summer movie season that began on May 1 have slipped below last summer's total at this time, the Los Angeles Times observed. A big rise in attendance during the first four months of the year, the newspaper noted, "fueled theories that the recession was increasing moviegoing, but that no longer appears to be true." And even the success of The Hangover may not be all that it's cracked up to be, Britain's Guardian newspaper commented. It noted that Warner Bros. had predicted that the movie would be one of its heavy hitters when studio executives touted it to exhibitors at the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas last March. "So to call this a sleeper hit is nothing more than savvy marketing, especially when it's playing in approximately 3,300 cinemas," the Guardian commented.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Box Office Mojo (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. The Hangover, Warner Bros., $32,794,387, 2 Wks. ($104,768,489); 2. Up, Disney, $30,762,280, 3 Wks. ($187,425,989); 3. The Taking of Pelham 123, Sony, $23,373,102, (New); 4. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, 20th Century Fox, $9,616,907, 4 Wks. ($143,463,712); 5. Land of the Lost, Universal, $8,994,030, 2 Wks. ($34,820,550); 6. Imagine That, Paramount, $5,503,519, (New); 7. Star Trek, Paramount, $5,454,563, 6 Wks. ($231,882,965); 8. Terminator Salvation, Warner Bros., $4,787,487, 4 Wks. ($113,923,159); 9. Angels & Demons, Sony, $4,111,457, 4 Wks. ($123,211,661); 10. Drag Me to Hell, Universal, $3,932,585, 3 Wks. ($35,214,475).

SAG "HARDLINERS" CONTINUE TO PRESS LAWSUITS

Despite its landslide defeat in last week's SAG referendum on the TV/theatrical contract with with producers, the Membership First faction of the union is continuing to press its lawsuit against the union's board and moving ahead with an appeal of a previous court order that denied their request for a temporary restraining order. As noted by entertainment attorney Jonathan Handel on his blog, the preliminary stages of the legal wrangling are likely to drag on for many months before an appeals court issues a ruling and the lawsuit comes to trial. "Confused as to how a case can proceed in two courts at once?" Handel wrote. "Well, it happens, and the legal fees aren't cheap."

BRÜNO ENCOUNTERS FIRST CRITIC

The tabloid London Sun has jumped the gun and published the first review of Sasha Baron Cohen's Brüno, which is not due to be released until July 10. Critic Gordon Smart wrote, "To say Brüno makes uncomfortable viewing is an understatement of Battle of Britain proportions. When I wasn't giggling like a 14-year-old, I was cowering behind my hands." The film opens with Brüno being fired from his Austrian TV fashion show after bringing a catwalk show to a halt with an all-in-one outfit made of Velcro straps. "The scene is utterly brilliant," Smart commented. When he's fired, his pygmy boyfriend dumps him. "And here lies a warning," Smart notes. "The pygmy sex scene is one of the most horrific incidents ever committed to celluloid. ... Teenage boys should under no circumstances watch this with their parents."