AN ELEPHANT STAYS IN THE BOX OFFICE

Kids returned to the movie theaters over the Easter weekend, giving Horton Hears a Who! a second consecutive box-office win with an estimated $25.1 million. Following last weekend's tally and solid midweek business, the film has now taken in $85.5 million in its first week. Lionsgate's Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns opened in second place with $20 million, about what analysts had predicted. The horror film Shutter from 20th Century Fox debuted in third place with $10.7 million, just ahead of Paramount's comedy, Drillbit Taylor, starring Owen Wilson, which earned around $10.2 million. In a surprise, the Spanish-language film Under the Same Moon from Fox Searchlight and The Weinstein Co. opened in 10th place with $2.6 million in 266 theaters, the most any Spanish-language film has ever made in its debut in the U.S.

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

1. Horton Hears a Who!, $25.1 million; 2. Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns, $20 million; 3. Shutter, $10.7 million; 4. Drillbit Taylor, $10.2 million; 5. 10,000 B.C., $8.7 million; 6. Never Back Down, $4.9 million; 7. College Road Trip, $4.6 million; 8. The Bank Job, $4.1 million; 9. Vantage Point, $3.8 million; 10. Under the Same Moon, $2.6 million.

10,000 B.C. CLUBS RIVALS

Overseas 10,000 B.C. continued to outdo its domestic performance, earning $28.2 million in 62 countries to bring its overseas total to $118.1 million, according to trade reports. Horton Hears a Who! placed second with $25.2 million in 49 countries, while Bienvenue chez les ch'tis placed third with $16.6 million all from France, where it has been the number-one film for four consecutive weeks. (It is estimated that 20 percent of the French population has now seen the movie.)

MOVIE REVIEWS: TYLER PERRY'S MEET THE BROWNS

Although it was not screened in advance for critics, Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns did not receive especially harsh reviews when they finally appeared over the weekend. A.O. Scott in the New York Times acknowledged that he was the only white person in the theater showing Perry's film, adding, "I was probably also the only person who was there for work rather than pleasure, though the pleasure in the room was pretty contagious." Scott's take on the film: "Mr. Perry treats a story a little like a banquet table, loading it up with more stuff than is healthy or easily digestible. But this is an aspect of his generosity, his desire to sate and satisfy a hungry audience. What he serves up ... may sometimes lack coherence, but never integrity." Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer observed that while The Browns may have "more soap than a Laundromat," Perry "knows how to give human dimension, and a dimension of humor, to the clichés and stereotypes." Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle concluded, "There are a few laughs and some touching moments, but nothing you couldn't get by watching episodes of Good Times and Little House on the Prairie back to back." And Jason Anderson in the Toronto Globe and Mail summed up: "Perry's methods are never subtle, but no contemporary filmmaker works harder to make sure ribs are tickled and tears are jerked."

REPORTER CLAIMS COLLEAGUES TAUNTED HER AFTER DEATH THREAT

After she filed a police report in 2002 saying that she had found a bullet hole in her windshield, a dead fish and a rose on the hood, and a note saying "Stop," reporter Anita Busch says that she found herself being ridiculed by colleagues at the Los Angeles Times and being accused of faking the scene by others in the news media. In an interview appearing in today's (Monday) New York Times Busch remarked, "It's hard to take, when you're telling the truth and people are looking at you sideways and laughing in your face." Busch, who says she was working on an article for the Times about Hollywood connections to organized crime at the time, disclosed that she subsequently learned that "a private investigator" had hired someone to blow up her car and, following an FBI raid of Anthony Pellicano's offices, also learned that her phones had been tapped. She said that she was then forced to call informants and tell them that their confidentiality had been compromised. (One of them, she added, said that he now was scared for his life.) "It was, literally, watching your career disappear in front of your eyes, and you can't do anything about it," Busch told the Times. She is expected to testify against Pellicano during his current trial.

LEDGER WORTH ONLY $145,000 AT TIME OF DEATH?

The late actor Heath Ledger, who earned millions during his career as a film star, may have wound up with only $145,000 in assets at the time of his death, the Sydney Sunday Telegraph reported, citing will documents filed by Ledger's family in New York on February 29. The documents, according to the newspaper, list furniture and fixtures worth $20,000, a Toyota Prius worth $25,000 and $100,000 in miscellaneous bank accounts. The figure was challenged by Larry Williams, father of actress Michelle Williams, who had separated from the actor before his death and who was the mother of their child Matilda. In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Williams, a well-known stock trader, urged the Ledger family to "come clean with everything" and asked Heath's father Kim "to say where the income went and where the assets are. ... I have no idea what Heath Ledger was worth [but] they certainly haven't stated all of the assets to the court."

EASY RIDER PRODUCER COMMITS SUICIDE

Compounding the level of tragedy experienced by the family of famed Broadway producer Leland Hayward, it was reported over the weekend that his son William committed suicide on March 9 in Castaic, CA at age 66. In 1969 he teamed with Peter Fonda and Bert Schneider to produce Easy Rider and in the '70s produced such films as The Hired Hand, High-Ballin', and Wanda Nevada, all starring Fonda. In 1980 he produced a TV movie, Haywire, about his father and his mother, actress Margaret Sullavan, starring Jason Robards and Lee Remick. It was based on a book written by his sister Brooke. As recounted in the book, Sullavan died in 1960 of an overdose of sleeping pills and his sister Bridget died the same year, also of an overdose. The L.A. County coroner's office said that William died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the heart.
Cinemark Movie Club

Brian B.