10,000 BC OPENING: MORE WOOLLY THAN MAMMOTH

Ordinarily a film that collects more than $35 million over its opening weekend is considered a smash hit. Not so in the case of Warner Bros.' 10,000 B.C., which many analysts claimed had an outside chance of setting a March record, beating last year's 300. As things turned out, however, 10,000 B.C. wound up with $35.9 million, about half of 300's opening take. Nevertheless, Warner Bros. executives expressed satisfaction with the result, pointing out that it exceeded their own prediction of $30 million. Moreover, the film performed strongly in its first roll-out overseas, where it took in $25.3 million in 20 countries. The real disappointment, analysts said, was the continued dreadful performance of New Line's Semi-Pro. Opening well below expectations last weekend, the movie's ticket sales dribbled down to just $5.8 million, dropping it to fifth place in its second weekend.

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. 10,000 B.C., Warner Bros., $35,867,488, (New); 2. College Road Trip, Disney, $13,601,419, (New); 3. Vantage Point, Sony Pictures, $7,356,236, 3 Wks. ($51,536,985); 4. The Bank Job, Lionsgate, $5,935,256, (New); 5. Semi-Pro, New Line, $5,786,032, 2 Wks. ($24,721,340); 6. The Spiderwick Chronicles, Paramount, $4,712,945, 4 Wks. ($61,633,488); 7. The Other Boleyn Girl, Sony Pictures, $4,048,026, 2 Wks. ($14,660,260); 8. Jumper, Fox, $3,662,375, 4 Wks. ($72,446,523); 9. Step Up 2 the Streets, Disney, $3,062,501, 4 Wks. ($53,016,888); 10. Fool's Gold, Warner Bros., $2,782,416, 5 Wks. ($62,802,900).

MOVIE PRODUCTION SUDDENLY SOARS IN L.A.

During the first three weeks following the writers strike, the number of permits for location shooting in Los Angeles for theatrical movies rose 61.9 percent from the same period a year ago, according to FilmL.A., the semi-official agency that co-ordinates the issuance of permits by government agencies to producers. The boost in production was attributed not only to the writers' return to work but also the prospect that the Screen Actors Guild might call a strike at the end of June when its contract with producers ends. However, FilmLA expressed concern that television production remained below last year's levels, particularly production of TV pilots.

RECESSION WON'T AFFECT MOVIE BIZ, REPORT SAYS

The motion picture industry will likely be unaffected by the growing economic downturn, the Associated Press observed today (Tuesday), citing research by the National Association of Theatre Owners showing that the box office rose in five of the past seven recession years dating to the 1960s. The article, appearing as the annual convention of the National Association of Theater Owners opens in Las Vegas, quoted MPAA chief Dan Glickman as saying. "Most people would believe that offers a very good value. It's certainly much cheaper than a psychiatrist. ... To go into a darkened room where nobody can find you for two hours is great therapy, particularly when times are bad."

TMZ ACCUSED OF "CHECKBOOK JOURNALISM"

The celebrity website TMZ, a unit of Time Warner, paid memorabilia dealer Tom Riccio $165,000 for an audio tape recording of the confrontation between O.J. Simpson and collectibles dealers Alfred Beardsley and Bruce Fromong in a Las Vegas hotel room last year, the website TheSmokingGun.com said today (Tuesday). According to the website, Riccio sold the tape to TMZ before handing it over to Las Vegas police. TheSmokingGun.com observed that TMZ may be the only Time Warner entity that is not barred from paying for stories. The company is also the parent of CNN and Time, Inc., which publishes Time magazine, People and Entertainment Weekly.

FRENCH ANIMATED FILM BANNED IN IRAQ

The award-winning French animated film Persepolis has been banned in Lebanon, a country with strong cultural ties to France. Daily Variety commented today (Tuesday) that Lebanese authorities acted in order to avoid offending pro-Iranian members of the Lebanese opposition, which includes Hezbollah. Last year the Bangkok Film Festival banned the movie, which had been scheduled to open the festival, after officials at the Iranian embassy protested. The film concerns a young girl's experiences growing up in Iran at the time of the Islamic revolution in 1979. It won the jury prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival.

Brian B.