EARLY FIREWORKS AT WEEKEND BOX OFFICE

In what looked like a holiday weekend at the box office -- and there will be such a weekend beginning next Friday -- the two top films earned a combined $113.6 million and the top 12 movies pulled in $179.2 million, lifting the box office 22 percent over the same weekend a year ago, according to studio estimates. Topping the list was the Disney/Pixar animated film WALL-E, which took in about $62.5 million, making it the third-best opening for a Pixar film behind The Incredibles ($70.5 million) and Finding Nemo ($70.2 million). The film, the best-reviewed of the year, performed at the low end of analysts' predictions. However, the No. 2 film, Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy, soared well above their predictions, earning $51.1 million (plus $33 million overseas). In addition, last week's top film, Warner Bros.' Get Smart slipped to third place with $20 million, while Paramount/DreamWorks Animation's Kung Fu Panda added another $11.7 million to its total. "The box office is incredibly robust right now," Media by Numbers chief Paul Dergarabedian told today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times. "Historically, films do well when times are tough, when going to the movies is an inexpensive way to forget about your troubles. This is a perfect example of that." One glaring failure on the list was Paramount's The Love Guru, which plunged 61 percent to just $5.4 million in its second week.

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

1. WALL-E, $62.5 million; 2. Wanted, $51.1 million; 3. Get Smart, $20 million; 4. Kung Fu Panda, $11.7 million; 5. The Incredible Hulk, $9.2 million; 6. The Love Guru, $5.4 million; 7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, $5 million; 8. The Happening, $3.9 million; 9. Sex and the City, $3.8 million; 10. You Don't Mess With the Zohan, $3.2 million.

SAG LEADER CALLS STRIKE TALK "A DISTRACTION"

Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg on Sunday called talk about the possibility of a strike "a distraction" even as the SAG contract with the studios and television networks approached its expiration at midnight tonight (Monday). "We have taken no steps to initiate a strike authorization vote by the members of Screen Actors Guild," Rosenberg said in a statement. However, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers indicated that much of the industry had already shut down while negotiations with SAG dragged on. "The AMPTP has made four major guild agreements so far this year, and there is no reason we can't make a fifth and final one with SAG and get the town back to working at full speed," the AMPTP statement said. But it is generally believed that no agreement is possible before July 8, when the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is due to announce the outcome of a ratification vote on its deal with the AMPTP. Hollywood SAG leaders have been campaigning among members who also hold union cards in AFTRA to vote down the deal. On the other hand, should AFTRA members overwhelmingly approve it, SAG's leverage at the bargaining table would likely be weakened.

WENDERS TO HEAD VENICE JURY

German director Wim Wenders has been named to head the jury at this year's 65th annual Venice Film Festival. Wenders won the festival's Golden Lion award in 1982 for Der Stand der Dinge and the Cannes Palme d'Or in 1984 for Paris, Texas. He was also nominated for an Oscar for his 1999 documentary Buena Vista Social Club. The festival is scheduled to run from August 27 to September 6, opening with the Coen Brothers' latest comedy, Burn After Reading, starring Brad Pitt and George Clooney.

MACE RELEASED AT MARYLAND THEATER

Raising new concerns about the vulnerability of movie theaters to attacks by terrorists or deranged individuals, it was reported today (Monday) that as many as 60 persons were forced to flee an AMC theater in Beltsville, MD Sunday night when a large quantity of mace was released during a screening. At least three persons, including a 12-year-old boy, were hospitalized following the attack. Their condition was not disclosed. Television station WTOP reported that police aided fire department personnel with crowd control at the AMC Loews Center Park 8 theater. No arrests have been made, and the incident remains under investigation.

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.