i>SEMI PRO IS SLAM DUMPED

Box-office receipts barely dribbled in over the weekend for Will Ferrell's basketball spoof Semi-Pro. Although it beat all other contenders for the top spot, the movie wound up with only $15.3 million in ticket sales, yet another disappointment for its ailing distributor, New Line Cinema, which last week learned that it was being absorbed by Warner Bros. Many box-office analysts had predicted that the movie would earn $25-30 million, somewhat below the $33 million earned by Ferrell's 2007 ice-skating comedy Blades of Glory. Meanwhile, last weekend's winner, Sony's Vantage Point, starring Dennis Quaid, slid to No. 2 with just $13 million, while Paramount's fairy-tale film The Spiderwick Chronicles slipped to third place with $8.8 million. The Other Boleyn Girl, starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, opened in fourth place with $8.3 million. The only other film to open wide, Penelope, starring Christina Ricci, debuted in eighth place with $4 million. Overall, the top 12 films grossed just $81 million, down a whopping 25 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago.

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

1. Semi-Pro, $15.3 million; 2. Vantage Point, $13 million; 3. Spiderwick Chronicles, $8.8 million; 4. The Other Boleyn Girl, $8.3 million; 5. Jumper, $7.6 million; 6. Step Up 2 The Streets, $5.7 million; 7. Fool's Gold, $4.7 million; 8. Penelope, $4 million; 9. No Country For Old Men, $4 million; 10. Juno, $3.4 million.

NEW LINE EMPLOYEES LEARN THEIR FATE

At least 75 percent of New Line's staff of 600 are likely to be fired in the coming months despite assurances by Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes on Friday that he wants to retain as many New Line employees as possible, Daily Variety reported today (Monday), citing an "emerging consensus." The trade publication said that New Line is also expected to shut down its offices in New York and its headquarters in West Hollywood, moving remaining operations to the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank. Speaking to New Line employees by satellite on Friday, Bewkes said that Co-Chairmen Bob Shaye and Michael Lynn are "still here," but "for everyone's sake, they need to step back from the process."

MPAA WANTS FCC TO ALLOW "MANAGED" INTERNET FLOW

The Motion Picture Association of America does not want the FCC to hinder Internet service providers' ability to "manage" the flow of bandwidth-heavy downloads on their systems. In a filing with the commission, the studio group said, "Allowing Internet-service providers to address capacity and piracy abuses is the best way of providing consumers with a dynamic, content-rich broadband experience." As reported by Broadcasting & Cable magazine, NBCU said in a separate filing that a "tidal wave of unlawful conduct by BitTorrent users" has worked "to the clear detriment of the majority of consumers."

INDIANA JONES AND THE GOLD OF THE INTERNET

In just one week, the trailer for Paramount's upcoming Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has been viewed more than 200 million times worldwide, according to Gerry Rich, Paramount's president of worldwide marketing. "The response has been sensational and it shows what technology can do when you have material that is so appealing to audiences," Rich told the Associated Press. Harry Knowles, who runs the website AintItCool.com, told A.P., "It seems that everyone is extremely excited that there's a new 'Indiana Jones' film. The excitement for it is palpable. It's much more aggressively anticipated than anything else that's coming out right now." The film is due to be released on May 22.

ESPN TO MAKE SPORTS MOVIES WITH DISNEY

ESPN will partner with corporate sibling Walt Disney Studios and the Creative Artists talent agency to make theatrical films with sports themes, the New York Times reported today (Monday). "We see this as a new way to reach sports fans and engage them," Keith Clinkscales, ESPN's senior vice president for content development, told the newspaper, adding: "A lot of people who spend time being engaged in ESPN also spend a lot of time going to the movies." Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook said that the partnership "represents a big score for sports fans and moviegoers alike," and noted that the studio has produced several sports-themed hits, including Remember the Titans and The Rookie.

OSCAR WINNER BLAMED U.S. FOR 9/11

Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard is likely to draw protesters when she begins shooting a new film in Chicago next week because of year-old remarks about the 9/11 attacks in which she appeared to contend that the U.S. staged the destruction of the World Trade Center towers because they needed to be modernized and "it was a lot more expensive, that work, than destroying them." In an interview for French television that was originally broadcast a year ago, she suggested that the public was "lied to" about the attacks. Cotillard has been cast in Public Enemies, which costars Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. In an interview with the Hollywood Today website, 9/11 fireman Mike Lennon, who made a documentary about the disaster, warned that Cotillard's remarks "could be a powder keg issue for thousands of firefighters and the families of victims who may picket her next film with my full support."
Cinemark Movie Club

Brian B.