BOX OFFICE TUMBLES

The weekend box office proved to be worse than studios had estimated, as final figures indicated that the top 12 films grossed just $87,791,200, a 13-year-low for the eleventh weekend of the year and 17 percent below last year's figure for the weekend. The downturn marks the end of a streak of better-than-expected theater attendance that saw revenue climb 14.1 percent above last year and attendance rise 12.4 percent. Leading the pack was Disney's Race to Witch Mountain with $24.4 million -- OK for a relatively low-budget family film. In second place was last weekend's winner, Watchmen, which plummeted 68 percent to $17.8 million to bring its two-week total to $85.8 million. Universal's Last House on the Left opened in third place with $14.1 million, followed by 20th Century Fox's Taken, which took in $6.6 million in its seventh week, dropping just 10 percent from the previous weekend. Miss March, the only other film to open wide over the weekend, barely made the top ten list as it tanked with just $2.4 million. In limited release, the Harrison Ford drama Crossing Over seemed unlikely to cross over to a much wider release as it earned just $102,331 at 38 theaters, bringing its three-week total to a meager $272,175.

MARLEY AND ME BEATS WATCHMEN OVERSEAS

Overseas, Marley and Me scampered to the top of the box-office list, earning $13.9 million in 34 countries. It nosed out the second weekend of Watchmen, which collected $13.5 million in 54 countries to bring its foreign total to $49.5 million. Marley earned nearly half its total overseas gross in dog-loving Great Britain, where it took in $6.5 million, according to Daily Variety. The Clint Eastwood drama Gran Torino continued to show strength, earning $11.4 million in 27 countries, bringing its overseas total to $47.7 million after three weeks.

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. Race to Witch Mountain, Disney, $24,402,214, (New); 2. Watchmen, Warner Bros, $17,817,301, 2 Wks. ($85,751,993); 3. The Last House on the Left, Universal, $14,118,685, (New); 4. Taken, Fox, $6,568,651, 7 Wks. ($12,675,2054); 5. Tyler Perry's Madea Goes to Jail, Lionsgate, $5,108,532, 4 Wks. ($83,187,594); 6. Slumdog Millionaire, Fox Searchlight, $5002777, 18 Wks. ($13,260,2820); 7. Paul Blart: Mall Cop, Sony/Columbia, $3,119,151, 9 Wks. ($137,785,983); 8. He's Just Not That Into You, Warner Bros., $2,939,484, 6 Wks. ($89,038,259); 9. Coraline, Focus, $2,718,231, 6 Wks. ($69,240,852); 10. Miss March, Fox, $2,409,156, (New).

EVERY MOVIE EVER MADE ON THE 'NET?

The founder of the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) website has envisaged a time when all of the 1.3 million titles indexed on the site -- movies and TV shows -- can be streamed to its users with the click of a mouse. As reported by CNET News, Col Needham, in a speech delivered to the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, TX, acknowledged that the task will be formidable (and in some instances impossible, since prints of some of the films listed on the website no longer exist). Developing a relationship with rights owners also could prove to be challenging, he said, but it has already begun, with IMDb currently providing access to 14,000 TV episodes and about 2,000 movies, as well as 120,000 videos including trailers, interviews and featurettes.

HIT MOVIE TO BE RELEASED ON VOD CABLE AND DVD ON SAME DAY

Comcast said Monday that it is planning to make the vampire flick Twilight available to its subscribers on demand beginning after midnight on Saturday, March 21, the same day it is released on DVD. The announcement was surprising given the usual window of about three months between the release of a DVD in stores and its release on cable TV. (It is also unusual for a DVD to be released on a Saturday.) It was not clear whether the movie would continue to be available following the Saturday screening on the Comcast systems or whether it would be yanked and re-released at a later date.

DISNEY HALTS TALKS ON EXPANDING HONG KONG DISNEYLAND

The Walt Disney Co. has pulled out of talks with the Hong Kong government on plans to expand its theme park, which some analysts regard as crucial in order to attract repeat visitors. Disney said it is firing 30 Hong Kong-based "Imagineers" who had been developing plans for the expansion. It suggested that it was doing so because of uncertainty over the Hong Kong government's commitment to funding the expansion. A spokesperson for the Hong Kong Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said it was "puzzled" by Disney's decision and asked Disney to reconsider.

DUBAI COMPLETES FIRST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE

Dubai, the United Arab Emirate country that has announced plans to build elaborate motion picture studios and facilities rivaling Hollywood's, will complete production of its first feature film, City of Life, this week, using a multi-lingual script and multinational cast and production crew, the English-language daily Gulf News reported today (Tuesday). Director Ali Mustafa told the newspaper, "We are attempting to do something that has never been done [here] before ... make a movie which meets global standards. The scale is truly international, and it's made from start to finish in Dubai." Tim Smythe, one of the producers, whose previous credits include The Kingdom and Syriana, both partially filmed in Dubai, told the newspaper, "I feel proud when I realize that we are trying to bring out a world-class product based on local content and talent."