10,000 BC MAKES UNSPECTACULAR DEBUT

Answering the question, when is 10,000 less than 300?, Warner Bros. big-budget 10,000 BC opened with a less-than-stunning $35.7 million over the weekend, about half what last year's 300 took in over the comparable weekend. Most box-office forecasters had figured that the movie was a sure bet to take in at least $40 million and a few said it had a reasonable chance of overtaking 300 to set a new March record. The studio itself had predicted a conservative $30 million, and Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman remarked in an interview with today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times, "We hit our mark." Coming in second was Disney's family flick College Road Trip with about $14 million, slightly less than what most analysts had predicted. Also opening was Lionsgate's favorably reviewed The Bank Job, which took in $5.7 million, on the low end of analysts' predictions. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all was the quick play-out of last weekend's Semi Pro, which dropped 62 percent from its woeful opening to just $5.8 million, hammering another nail into New Line Cinema's coffin. Overall, the box office was down significantly for the fourth week in a row versus a year ago with total revenue for the top-twelve films estimated at $91.8 million, down 35 percent from the same weekend last year. Ticket sales are predicted to increase over the next few weeks as spring break comes early due to the early arrival of the Easter holiday this month.The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. 10,000 B.C., $35.7 million; 2. College Road Trip, $14 million; 3. Vantage Point, $7.5 million; 4. Semi-Pro, $5.8 million; 5. The Bank Job, $5.7 million; 6. The Spiderwick Chronicles, $4.8 million; 7. The Other Boleyn Girl, $4 million; 8. Jumper, $3.8 million; 9. Step Up 2 the Streets, $3 million; 10. Fool's Gold, $2.8 million.

STUDIOS, EXHIBITORS AGREE ON DIGITAL EXPANSION IN THEATERS

The major studios are close to reaching agreement with the major exhibitors on a deal that would bring digital cinema to some 14,000 movie screens within the next year, Reuters reported on Sunday, noting that the changeover will cost an estimated $1.1 billion. A total of about 37,000 screens exist in the U.S. The 14,000 involved in the deal are owned by Regal Entertainment, Cinemark, and AMC Entertainment. Once in place digital projection systems could also be upgraded to show 3-D movies, the Reuters report observed. It quoted Michael Lewis, chairman of Real D projection systems, as saying, "3-D is the big game changer and the compelling reason for doing digital cinema." Currently there are fewer than 1,000 theaters capable of showing movies using the 3-D digital system.

PELLICANO'S SECRETARY CALLED TO TESTIFY

Granted immunity from prosecution in return for her testimony, a former employee of Anthony Pellicano on Monday acknowledged that she transcribed wiretapped conversations recorded by the former Hollywood private eye. Tarita Virtue also said that she was able to use a software program, called Telesleuth and developed by Pellicano, that also allowed her to convert touch-tone beeps made over the telephone when Pellicano's targets made phone calls, paid for goods over the phone, or checked their bank accounts or credit-card accounts from home. She is due to resume testimony today (Monday).

PARAMOUNT MOVIES TO GO ONLINE -- WELL, CLIPS OF 'EM

Paramount has spent the past year selecting and cataloguing short clips from the thousands of movies it has produced during its long history (it is the oldest studio in Hollywood) and will make them available on Facebook beginning today (Monday), the Viacom-owned studio said over the weekend. The clips require the use of an application called VooZoo that will allow viewers to order a DVD of the whole film online. The Facebook project was reportedly developed by a Los Angeles-based company, FanRocket, which has indicated that it is in talks with other studios to bring them under the VooZoo banner, too.

WEST END HAIR SPRAY WINS OLIVIERS

The stage version of the movie Hairspray received top honors at the Olivier Awards, Britain's equivalent of the Tony Awards, Sunday night. Hairspray won for best new musical, best actor in a musical (Michael Ball), best actress in a musical (Leanne Jones), and best supporting performer in a musical (Tracie Bennett).

HARRISON FORD HAD NO FAITH STAR WARS WOULD SUCCEED

Asked by Home Media magazine what his "defining memory" of Star Wars was, Harrison Ford responded, "The day my accountant convinced me that the success of the film and the two sequels that I was in meant I would never be poor again. It was a very Scarlett O'Hara moment considering prior to that I was making more of a living as a carpenter than an actor." Ford indicated that he had little confidence while he was making Star Wars that it would become successful. "Whenever we would ask [director George] Lucas what we were shooting at or fleeing from he'd just tell us the special effects will be put in much later and that will explain everything," he said, adding: "George will never be known as an actor's director."

Brian B.