i>EVAN ALMIGHTY SINKS ON LAUNCH

God took a beating at the box office over the weekend. The biblical comedy Evan Almighty, which reportedly cost $200 million or more to make, opened with only $31.2 million, and some analysts were predicting that the Universal movie would not earn $100 million during its domestic run. On the other hand, the MGM horror flick 1408, which cost only $25 million to make, debuted with $20.6 million, placing second on Media by Numbers' list of the top ten. Meanwhile, last weekend's winner, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, dropped to third place with $20 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. Evan Almighty, Universal, $31,192,615, (New); 2. 1408, MGM, $20,617,667, (New); 3. Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, 20th Century Fox, $20,009,476, 2 Wks. ($97,463,035); 4. Ocean's Thirteen, Warner Bros., $11,411,268, 3 Wks. ($91,079,577); 5. Knocked Up, Universal, $10,977,595, 4 Wks. ($109,323,845); 6. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, Disney, $7,202,086, 5 Wks. ($287,001,716); 7. Surf's Up, Sony, $6,580,743, 3 Wks. ($47,193,723); 8. Shrek the Third, Paramount, $5,652,585, 6 Wks. ($307,807,439); 9. Nancy Drew, Warner Bros., $4,379,447, 2 Wks. ($16,067,041); 10. A Mighty Heart, Paramount, $3,948,863, (New).

COLUMBIA HOUSE TO BEGIN OFFERING HI-DEF DVD'S

Bertelsmann-owned Columbia House plans to begin offering DVDs in both high-definition formats this fall, the website Hi-Def Disc News reported Monday. The website said that it discovered a new addition to Columbia House's Q&A section that includes the question, "Will Columbia House support both of these new formats?" The reply: "We plan to begin carrying both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs in the fall of 2007. Columbia is the country's largest direct marketer of CDs and DVDs and claims to have 14 million members worldwide. The website commented, "The addition of high-def discs to the club's menu could provide a significant boost in consumer awareness of both high-def formats, if not a considerable impact in sales."

GERMANY TO LIMIT CRUISE FILMING -- BECAUSE HE'S A SCIENTOLOGIST

In an ironic act that some commentators said revealed yet another display of German religious intolerance, the German Defense Ministry has barred the producers of a film about the World War II "generals' plot" to assassinate Hitler from using German military sites because it stars Tom Cruise, a Scientologist. Cruise portrays the leader of the plot, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. In a statement, Harald Kammerbauer, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said that United Artists, which is producing the film and which is headed by Cruise, "will not be allowed to film at German military sites if Count Stauffenberg is played by Tom Cruise, who has publicly professed to being a member of the Scientology cult. ... The [Federal Armed Forces have] a special interest in the serious and authentic portrayal of the events of July 20, 1944 and Stauffenberg's person." Cruise's partner, Paula Wagner, issued a statement saying that the movie, titled Valkyrie after the plot's codename, depicts Stauffenberg as a "heroic and principled figure" and will remind "the world that even within the ranks of the German military, there was real resistance to the Nazi regime." She said that Cruise's "personal beliefs have absolutely no bearing on the movie's plot, themes or content."

ANTI-GUN FILM FESTIVAL HONORS PRO-GUN FILMMAKER -- SORT OF

Apparently unaware that its producer/writer/director is an outspoken pro-gun advocate, the Moondance International Film Festival, whose stated goal is to "encourage and inspire non-violent conflict resolution," has selected Niel Schulman's Lady Magdalene's as a semifinalist in this year's competition. Upon learning of the selection, Schulman congratulated the festival's director "on her openness in placing art before politics, in an age when virtually all film festivals filter out any film not promoting their own narrow prejudices." Informed that Schulman is the webmaster of the World Wide Web Gun Defense Clock, which promotes armed self-defense; is the writer of Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns;and that his movie reflects his pro-gun views, English said in a statement that the film was selected "based on the film's story of a kind of feminine self-empowerment, but I do not, and Moondance certainly does not, advocate the kind of violence depicted in this film ... which is the reason the film will not be screened at the film festival." The festival is scheduled to take place in Universal City on September 7-9.

Brian B.