NOTHING SHORT OF FANTASTIC AT BOX OFFICE

Twentieth Century Fox's decision to produce Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in such a way that it would receive a PG rating apparently paid off in spades for the studio over the weekend. The film defied analysts' predictions of a $30-million opening and grossed nearly twice that amount -- an estimated $57.4 million -- to take the top spot at the box office. In an interview with today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times, Fox sales manager Chris Aronson, said, "We made a concerted effort to make this one PG to cast a wider umbrella and make it family-friendly." Meanwhile, last week's top film, Ocean's 13, ebbed 47 percent to take in just $19 million. In third place was Universal's R-rated Knocked Up with $14.1 million, bringing its gross to $90.5 million. It has now surged ahead of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, which placed fourth with $12 million. The only other new film at the box office this weekend, Warner Bros.' Nancy Drew, drew only $7 million.

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

1. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, $57.4 million; 2. Ocean's Thirteen, $19.1 million; 3. Knocked Up, $14.5 million; 4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, $12 million; 5. Surf's Up, $9.3 million; 6. Shrek the Third, $9 million; 7. Nancy Drew, $7.1 million; 8. Hostel: Part II, $3 million; 9. Mr. Brooks, $2.8 million; 10. Spider-Man 3, $2.5 million.

BLOCKBUSTER PLANS TO STOCK BLU-RAY DVD'S ONLY IN MOST STORES

Blockbuster says it will begin stocking movies in high-definition DVDs in 1,450 stores beginning next month -- but only in the Blu-ray format. It currently stocks high-definition titles in about 250 stores in both the Blu-ray and HD DVD formats, but it said Sunday that more than 70 percent of its customers are renting the Blu-ray disks. In an interview with the Associated Press, Blockbuster merchandising exec Matthew Smith commented, "The consumers are sending us a message. I can't ignore what I'm seeing." The company said that it will continue to rent HD DVD titles in the stores that carry them now and also online.

JOLIE DENIES CENSORING INTERVIEWERS

Angelina Jolie has denied knowing about a legal document sent to reporters wanting to interview her in connection with her latest movie A Mighty Heart, that barred them from asking her questions about her personal life. Jolie, who was described by FoxNews.com commentator as a "mighty hypocrite" for demanding that reporters sign the document (the movie, about slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, focuses on press freedom), told the Associated Press, "My lawyers apologized to me to say that it was heavy-handed. But they did it with good intention." Earlier, in a separate interview on The Daily Show, Jolie described the document as "excessive" and added, "I wouldn't have put it out there." In an interview with The New York Times, attorney Robert Offer admitted that the document "was drafted overly broadly."

GAYS IN FEUD OVER TRAVOLTA'S HAIRSPRAY APPEARANCE

John Waters, director of the original Hairspray movie and a producer of the upcoming remake, has come to the defense of John Travolta, who plays a woman, Edna Turnblad, in the new film. The decision to cast Travolta, a Scientologist, in the role was castigated last week by Kevin Naff, editor of the gay newspaper the Washington Blade, who claimed that Scientologists operate "reparative clinics to try to 'cure' gays." He demanded a gay boycott of the film. Responding to Naff's remarks in the New York Daily News's Rush and Molloy column, Waters said, "If [Travolta] was homophobic ... dancing in that fat suit with as many gay people as are working on this film, he would have had a heart attack and been dead." Other writers have noted that before he died, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard appeared to disavow his earlier positions on homosexuality and that gay activists, including West Hollywood drug counselor Keith Relkin, are members. (Relkin once wrote that a Scientology chaplain "helped me deal with coming out as a gay man.")

NEW HARRY POTTER MOVIE GETS "MATURE" RATING IN AUSTRALIA

Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification has given an M rating ("requires a mature perspective") to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, an advisory rating that could discourage parents from allowing their children to see it. The rating is less restrictive than the board's MA 15+, which requires children under 15 to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Although Roadshow Films, which is releasing the movie in Australia on July 11, had previously appealed M ratings for earlier Harry Potter movies -- with mixed success -- it said it would not do so for the new film.

MICHAEL MOORE'S SICKO IS PIRATED

A copy of Michael Moore's Sicko, apparently spirited out of the United States and into Canada in order to avoid the possibility of its being confiscated by U.S. authorities, has turned up on the Internet on peer-to-peer content sites. Advertising Age commented on its website today (Monday): "Moore, and his distributor, The Weinstein Company, have every film maker's worst marketing nightmare on their hands -- how to persuade people to go to the theater to see a show that's available free on the Internet." Some analysts observed, however, that Moore's previous film, Fahrenheit 9/11, was also widely bootlegged but nevertheless went on to gross $119 million domestically. Meanwhile, director Eli Roth is complaining on his MySpace page that piracy did in his latest movie, Hostel Part II. Roth has written that "a stolen workprint" was uploaded before the release "and is really hurting us." He predicted: "Piracy will be the death of the film industry, as it killed the music industry, and while it makes a smaller dent in huge movies like Spider Man 3, it really hurts films like mine, which have far less of an advertising and production budget." Roth further charged that some critics -- he declined to name them -- actually reviewed the pirated copy. "I know who they are, as do the studios, and other filmmakers," he said, "and they will no longer have any access to any of my films."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.