i>21 BLACKJACKS ITS RIVALS

Defying analysts' odds, the gambling flick 21 topped the box office over the weekend with $23.7 million. Superhero Movie, which most industry forecasters had picked to win the competition, wound up with just $9.5 million to place third. The third week of Horton Hears a Who turned out to be music to the ears of Fox executives as it wound up with $17.4 million, taking it well past the $100-million mark to $117.2 million. Meanwhile, Stop-Loss, the best-reviewed new film, became the latest anti-Iraq-war movie to be shot down at the box office, as it opened in eighth place with just $4.5 million. Not even making the top-ten list was the Picturehouse comedy Run, Fat Boy, Run, which barely got off the blocks with $2.4 million in ticket sales.

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

1. 21, $23.7 million; 2. Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears a Who!, $17.4 million; 3. Superhero Movie, $9.5 million; 4. Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns, $7.8 million; 5. Drillbit Taylor, $5.8 million; 6. Shutter, $5.3 million; 7. 10,000 B.C., $4.9 million; 8. Stop-Loss, $4.5 million; 9. College Road Trip, $3.5 million; 10. The Bank Job, $2.8 million.

FANS OF FANBOYS CLAIM THEY BEAT THE WEINSTEINS

Fans of the as-yet-unreleased movie Fanboys who launched an Internet campaign against Superhero Movie in reaction to reports that The Weinstein Company had reedited and reshot pertinent Fanboys scenes claimed victory Sunday after Superhero Movie's disappointing opening. Small groups of protesters staged a demonstration in Los Angeles and New York Friday, even as they stepped up their campaign against the Weinsteins on their website at www.StopDarthWeinstein.com. "If you release your mutilated anti-fan version of Fanboys in any form, you can look forward to a lifetime boycott of your studio by every Star Wars fan on the planet," the site warned the Weinsteins. The Weinstein Co. said later that the fans' reaction had little to do with Superhero Movie's box-office performance. About eight protesters showed up at an AMC theater in Los Angeles and were taken out for pizza afterwards by Fanboys producer Matthew Perniciaro. Perniciaro later told the Hollywood Reporter: "We've been working on this movie for many years and if someone is going to take time out of their personal life and support our film, whatever that support may be, at the very least what we can do is say thank you and buy them a couple of slices of pizza."

HORTON BLEATS AGAIN

Horton Hears a Who may have been forced to move down one place in the parade of films at the domestic box office, but overseas Horton remained in the lead, earning $13.2 million in its third week and bringing its overseas total to $77 million, Daily Variety reported. The strong performance of Horton was unexpected, since the Dr. Seuss children's books are not nearly as popular abroad as they are in the U.S. 10,000 B.C. also continued to perform strongly, raking in $12 million and raising its overseas gross to $142.5 million. (Its domestic total now stands at about $84.5 million.) But the French-language film Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis continued to astound as it earned an additional $10 million in just three countries, France, Belgium and Switzerland. In just five weeks, it has sold $150 million worth of tickets, mostly in France, establishing a record for a locally produced film.

AFTRA, SAG HURL ACCUSATIONS AT EACH OTHER

Solidarity between the two principal actors' unions appeared irreparably fractured Saturday as the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists voted to break off its 27-year joint bargaining agreement with the Screen Actors Guild. The decision allows AFTRA to begin early separate negotiations for a new contract with the major networks and studios. Until this latest rift, AFTRA was believed to be exercising a moderating influence over the hard-line stance of some SAG leaders, and some observers expressed concern that the split could result in another strike. SAG leaders had been elected on promises to wring additional DVD residuals from the studios and an increase in payments for work shown on cable and the Internet. SAG President Alan Rosenberg accused his AFTRA counterparts of turning "their back on every actor in America." AFTRA President Roberta Reardon shot back that SAG was attempting to undermine her union, most recently by allegedly attempting to become the bargaining agent for actors working on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful. On Sunday Rosenberg released a list of "facts," insisting, among other things, that "SAG is not involved in any way in organizing daytime drama actors."

BLU-RAY SALES RISING

In its first five days in the stores, the Blu-ray version of Fox's Hitman accounted for 12.6 percent of total sales; for No Country for Old Men, it was 9.8 percent, according to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert and reported by Home Media Magazine. Prior to the demise of the HD DVD format, the number of high-definition disk sales rarely topped 2-3 percent of total sales, the trade publication observed. (An exception: sales of the HD DVD-only release of Transformers hit 4 percent.)

Brian B. at Movieweb
Brian B.