i>FANTASTIC IS FANTASTIC

Twentieth Century Fox's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer had a fantastic opening at the box office over the weekend as it took in $58.1 million -- beating the studio's own weekend estimate of $57.3 million. But the box office overall seemed less impressive as its total fell behind last year's for the comparable weekend for the third consecutive week, down some 4 percent. For the year, however, box-office receipts are up 4 percent. Nearly all of that rise can be attributed to increases in ticket prices; attendance remains virtually flat. Last weekend's top film, Warner's Ocean's Thirteen, slipped to second place with $19.7 million. Continuing to impress, Universal's R-rated Knocked Up dropped only 28 percent to place third with $14.1 million, bringing its three-week total to $90 million. Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End fell to fourth place with $12.4 million, while Sony's animated Surf's Up rounded out the top five with $9.3 million.

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

1. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 20th Century Fox, $58,051,684, (New); 2. Ocean's Thirteen, Warner Bros., $19,724,405, 2 Wks. ($70,429,741); 3. Knocked Up, Universal, $14,069,880, 3 Wks. ($90,016,695); 4. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Disney, $12,411,786, 4 Wks. ($274,145,510); 5. Surf's Up, Sony, $9,254,793, 2 Wks. ($34,625,490); 6. Shrek the Third, Paramount, $9,003,044, 5 Wks. ($297,245,100); 7. Nancy Drew, Warner Bros., $6,832,318, (New); 8. Hostel: Part II, Lions Gate, $3,026,131, 2 Wks. ($14,208,497); 9. Mr. Brooks, MGM, $2,902,024, 3 Wks. ($23,523,243); 10. Spider-Man 3, Sony, $2,505,151, 7 Wks. ($330,021,137).

D.O.A. IS D.O.A.

The Weinstein Co.'s D.O.A.: Dead or Alive lived up to the other meaning of its initials as it opened in 505 theaters with just $260,713 -- or $516 per theater. Not only did it not make the top ten, it ended up in 17th place behind a Hindi film, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, which opened in only 83 theaters. The movie was not shown in advance to critics. Those who dutifully decided to stand in line with everyone else after it opened said that the movie, based on the video game, was mostly soft porn, or as writer Ken Fox put it in TV Guide: "The action ... is targeted squarely at adolescent boys too young to rent porn and gamers too lazy to yank their own joy sticks."

YOUTUBE REMOVES PIRATED SICKO UPLOADS

YouTube on Monday quickly yanked pirated copies of Michael Moore's Sicko from its website. The two-hour movie was posted in 14 segments, in deference to YouTube's policy of permitting only short clips to be uploaded. Nevertheless, Sicko remained available on at least two other file-sharing websites, PirateBay.com and Torrentspy.com.

SEMEL OUT AT YAHOO!

The failure by Yahoo! chief Terry Semel to merge Hollywood with Silicon Valley effectively, has resulted in the former studio chief's dismissal as head of the company after six years. Analysts said today (Tuesday) that Semel in recent years had attempted to invest in original entertainment for Yahoo!, while at the same time failing to go after burgeoning startups like MySpace and YouTube and overlooking advertising opportunities and improvements for Yahoo!'s search system, which was overtaken by Google. Semel will be replaced by Jerry Yang, who cofounded Yahoo! in 1994. Analysts had mixed reaction to the shake-up. Ben Schacter of UBS Securities remarked that he was "curious about what Jerry Yang disagreed with regarding past initiatives, as well as what he would like to change going forward." The San Jose Mercury News commented. "Earlier this decade Yahoo gambled that content and Hollywood would be the key to its success. Google banked on technology. Monday's dramatic shake-up ... is a long-awaited acknowledgment that Yahoo's bet was the wrong one."

CAT-BURGLAR MOVIE TO STAR CATS

Numerous movies about cat burglars have been produced in the past -- for example, the classic To Catch a Thief with Cary Grant in 1955 and the forgettable Burglar with Whoopi Goldberg in 1987 -- but Britain's Aardman Features announced Monday that it is planning a heist movie in which the burglars are actually cats. The claymation film from Wallace & Gromit director Steve Box is said to be a kind of take-off of Ocean's Eleven. Another feature, based on two books from Gideon Defoe's Pirates! series, will reportedly be directed by Aardman cofounder Peter Lord. Aardman recently signed a new deal with Sony Pictures after being dumped by DreamWorks Animation last year. In a statement, Sarah Smith, the newly appointed creative director of Aardman, said, "I think there's a great opportunity to excite audiences by raising the stakes in terms of the quality, intelligence and variety of stories our animated films tell and the genres they inhabit."

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.