HARD KNOCKS FOR PIRATES

Although it faced no competition from the opening of another summer blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End saw its ticket sales plunge 68 percent in its second weekend to $44.2 million. It was the biggest second-week drop of any summer tentpole flick, and several analysts attributed the drop to an absence of repeat business. Particularly troubling -- galling even -- for studio executives who have routinely been pouring $100-200 million into such films is that Universal's Knocked Up debuted in second place with $30.7 million -- more than it cost to produce. It beat out the third week of DreamWorks Animation/Paramount's Shrek the Third, which took in $28 million and which lost 50 percent of its audience in its third week of release. Still, despite the dropoffs, an unnamed "high-ranking studio veteran" told today's (Tuesday) Daily Variety: No one can complain with the results of any of these movies. If you're in the $300 million club, you've got something."

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. Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, Disney, $44,206,660, 2 Wks. ($217,545,728); 2. Knocked Up, Universal, $30,690,990, (New); 3. Shrek The Third, Paramount, $28,020,991, 3 Wks. ($255,927,783); 4. Mr. Brooks, MGM, $10,017,067, (New); 5. Spider-Man 3, Sony, $7,578,055, 5 Wks. ($318,342,110); 6. Waitress, Fox Searchlight, $2,012,857, 5 Wks. ($9,441,911); 7. Gracie, Picture House, $1,355,904, (New); 8. Bug, Lions Gate, $1,286,397, 2 Wks. ($6,158,052); 9. 28 Weeks Later, Fox Atomic, $1,214,942, 4 Wks. ($26,591,704); 10. Disturbia, Paramount, $1,112,533, 8 Wks. ($76,703,481),

WARNER TO TEST RELEASING MOVIES ON DVD AND VOD ON SAME DAY

Suggesting that studios can earn more from video-on-demand than they can from DVD rentals, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Group President Kevin Tsujihara said Monday that the studio will test releasing the movie 300 on VOD and DVD simultaneously in Belgium, Scandinavia and some other European markets later this year. As reported by Home Media Magazine, Tsujihara told a Deutsche Bank media conference in New York that while the studio receives 60-70 percent of VOD revenue, it gets only 15-25 percent of DVD rental revenue. His advice to consumers: "Don't get in your car. ... Watch it at home on cable or satellite." He urged the rest of the industry to follow his company's lead. "Or we'll go it alone. We have done it before."

TECH SITES HEAP SCORN ON CANADA'S CAMCORDING BILL

Internet tech sites have weighed in on the introduction of a bill in the Canadian parliament that would impose criminal penalties on anyone convicted of using a camcorder in a theater without permission. Several suggest that the bill amounts to a propaganda victory for Hollywood studios but will do little if anything to curtail piracy. Mike Masnick, who comments on legal issues for the blog Techdirt, observed that camcording represents "a minor problem" since few people want to watch shaky, poor-quality movies where the audience can be heard coughing and blocking the bottom part of the picture. He also claims that the MPAA has failed to provide any independent study corroborating its accusations that Canada is responsible for a large percentage of camcorded movies that turn up online and on bootleg DVDs. "Counterfeit DVDs are more often leaked from studio prints or early released DVDs," Masnick maintains. Somewhat surprisingly, his assertion is supported by Time magazine movie critic Richard Schickel. In a Los Angeles Times review of Jack Valenti's posthumous memoir, My Life in War, the White House and Hollywood," appearing today (Tuesday), Schickel writes, "Everyone knows most pirated films derive from the studios' duplicating facilities, from which it is childishly simple to smuggle films out to bootleggers."

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.