INDIE LIKELY TO GO DOWN AS HOLIDAY #2

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull earned an estimated $101 million between Friday and Sunday and might well outdo the current Memorial Day holiday champ, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, for the five-day record. Pirates earned $153 million during that period last year. Currently Crystal Skull is expected to come in at about $151 million. Final figures are due to be released on Wednesday. The film is expected to earn nearly the same amount internationally, due primarily to the greater strength of foreign currency. Nevertheless, it will take more than a single Indiana Jones success to lift the box office to its year-ago level. Currently, total ticket sales for 2008 are down almost 4 percent from 2007 and admissions are down 6.7 percent, according to box-office trackers Media by Numbers. In an interview with the London Financial Times, Dergarabedian said, "Indiana Jones is a shot in the arm but we're going to need consistency in the entire marketplace to catch up to last year."The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, $101 million; 2. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, $23 million; 3. Iron Man, $20.1 million; 4. What Happens in Vegas, $9 million; 5. Speed Racer, $4 million; 6. Made of Honor, $3.4 million; 7. Baby Mama, $3.3 million; 8. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, $1.7 million; 9. Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantánamo Bay, $900,000; 10. The Visitor, $800,000.

RUSSIAN COMMUNISTS CALL FOR BOYCOTT OF CRYSTAL SKULL

Members of Russia's dwindling Communist Party have called for a nationwide boycott of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which opened on Thursday. In particular, they object to the depiction of Soviet troops invading top-secret American installations, killing guards and wreaking havoc. As reported by the London Sunday Times, the Communists claim that no Soviet terrorists were ever sent to the U.S. in 1957, the year in which the movie's plot takes place. Instead, they said, the government successfully launched the first Sputnik satellite, "which evoked the admiration of the whole world." The Sunday Times quoted Moscow Communist lawmaker Andrei Andreyev as saying, "It is very disturbing if talented directors want to provoke a new Cold War." And Reuters quoted St. Petersburg Communist Party chief Sergei Malinkovich as saying, "Why should we agree to that sort of lie and let the West trick our youth?." He said that "they will go to the cinema and will be sure that in 1957 we made trouble for the United States and almost started a nuclear war."

SURPRISE WINNER AT CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

Director Laurence Cantet's Entre les Murs (The Class), a film about a year in the life of suburban Parisian students, was the surprise winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival Sunday. It marked the first win by a French film at the festival since 1987. Jury president Sean Penn told reporters that the film "just touched us so deeply." Cantet brought the entire cast of 24 teenagers onto the stage with him to accept the award from presenter Robert De Niro -- and brought the entire audience at the Palais des Festivals to its feet. Of the four titles from U.S. filmmakers in the competition, only one received any recognition -- Steven Soderbergh's biopic Che, which garnered the best-actor trophy for Benicio Del Toro, who portrayed the title figure, Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara. The award could be helpful in securing a distribution deal for the $68-million film, which faces an uphill battle given its 4 1/2-hour length, its controversial subject, and the fact that the dialog is delivered in Spanish. Clint Eastwood's Changeling, which received mostly solid reviews from critics and numerous predictions that it would win the top award, was shut out for major awards, but the jury created a special prize to honor Eastwood's achievement in films. (French actress Catherine Deneuve was also so honored.) Turkey's Nuri Belge Ceylon received the best-director award for his Three Monkeys. Two Italian films also fared well at the festival as Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah won the Grand Prix and Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo won the Jury Prize. Brazil's Sandra Corveloni won the best actress award for Linha de Passe and Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, who had twice won the Palme d'Or, received the best screenplay award for Le Silence de Lorna.

PRODUCER OFFERS FREE GAS TO FILM BUYER

Independent film producer Neil Schulman, who recently attempted unsuccessfully to sell rights to his movie Lady Magdalene's on eBay, is trying a new gambit -- offering a rebate in the form of one thousand gallons of gasoline to any studio that purchases his film. "We're making this offer during Memorial Day weekend when even the major studios are feeling the pinch of increased gasoline prices" to distribute their films, Schulman said in a statement. He added that he was barred from the typical indie filmmaker's route to a Hollywood deal -- the major film festivals -- because his film is "upbeat and feel-good. ... Who knew you needed to make a downbeat movie about a dysfunctional Inuit family whose lesbian daughter is molested by a Haliburton executive to get into Sundance?" 0

Brian B.