DREAMWORKS GETS ITS 3D PAYOFF

Monsters and aliens laid siege to the box office over the weekend, carrying away a $58.2-million loot. What's more, they proved that the 2D universe can be easily overtaken. Some 58 percent of that loot came from 28 percent of the theaters. And analysts immediately began speculating what the total gross would have been if DreamWorks Animation had been able to open Monsters vs. Aliens in the 4,000 theaters that it had planned on. Although reports last week had indicated that some theater chains were rushing to install more digital 3D projectors and that the film would open on more than 2,000 screens, the Associated Press reported Sunday that the final count of 3D screens was 1,550 (although Reuters pegged the figure at 2,080). In any case, the movie pushed the overall box office into the stratosphere, as its total came to 40 percent above that for the comparable week a year ago. Coming in a strong second was the debut of The Haunting in Connecticut, which grossed about $23 million. A third film, 12 Rounds, from World Wrestling Entertainment, hit the mat hard as it grossed an estimated $5.3 million to place seventh. The film, which was not previewed for critics, received caustic notices from those who went to see it over the weekend. Nathan Lee in the New York Times called it "an extremely frantic movie in which nothing of interest happens." Quite a few reviews said that the real problem was that wrestler John Cena lacks any acting chops. Maitland McDonagh in the Hollywood Reporter commented that Cena's "stolid seriousness sucks the life right out of any scene in which he's required to speak. It's a bad sign when you repeatedly wish a runaway trolley would silence the hero." But Gary Goldstein in the Los Angeles Times called it "escapist fun" and added that "it's not hard to get swept up in the crash-and-explode craziness of it all."

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

1. Monsters vs. Aliens, $58.2 million; 2. The Haunting in Connecticut, $23 million; 3. Knowing, $14.7 million; 4. I Love You, Man, $12.6 million; 5. Duplicity, $7.6 million; 6. Race to Witch Mountain, $5.6 million; 7. 12 Rounds, $5.3 million; 8. Watchmen, $2.755 million; 9. Taken, $2.75 million; 10. The Last House on the Left, $2.6 million.

RATINGS BOARD HITS BRUNO WITH AN NC-17

The MPAA ratings board has slapped Sacha Baron Cohen's latest Candid Camera-like feature Bruno with an NC-17 rating, citing graphic sexual content, entertainment industry columnist Sharon Waxman reported on her website, TheWrap.com, attributing a Universal spokesman. However, the spokesman indicated that "it is far too early to say that there is any struggle" to get an R-rating, since "the process is only at its inception." Waxman said that Baron Cohen is testing two versions of the film with audiences and, according to individuals close to the film, both screenings "were very successful."

THE FED TO ADVERTISE IN MOVIE THEATERS

In an unusual move by a non-military government agency, the Federal Reserve Board is producing a 30-second public-service announcement that will reportedly run amid the movie ads preceding the trailers in theaters in seven states beginning April 10. The Fed's ad warns against scams by individuals offering -- for a fee -- to help homeowners who have received foreclosure notices. The PSA, due to run in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada and Ohio -- the states with the largest number of foreclosures -- observes that there are numerous nonprofit groups that provide such services for free and who work with the government to help troubled homeowners. Previously military recruiting ads were about the only government messages screened in theaters.

STUDIOS WARY OF KIOSKS

Besides DVD bootlegging and online piracy, add movie kiosks to the list of things that movie studios now have to worry about. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, video industry analyst Tom Adams said that the cheap kiosk rentals -- $1.00 for a 24-hour period -- "is cannibalizing [DVD sales] ... especially in a recession year, where everyone is watching their nickels." The Times observed that the largest kiosk dealer, Redbox, now operates nearly 12,900 kiosks in the U.S. and plans to introduce 7,100 more by the end of the year. By contrast, Blockbuster has only 1,700 stores in the U.S.

PROLIFIC FILM COMPOSER JARRE DEAD AT 84

Film composer Maurice Jarre, who won Oscars for the scores of Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago,and A Passage to India, all of them directed by David Lean, has died in Los Angeles at age 84. In a statement, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that Jarre, who was French, "showed that music is as important as visual image in the success of a film. ... The works to which he contributed so masterfully are part of cinema history forever." His list of credits include more than 150 films, including Ryan's Daughter, The Tin Drum, The Year of Living Dangerously, Mad Max III and Fatal Attraction.

Cinemark Movie Club