CHRISTMAS COMES TOO EARLY FOR SOME

Moviegoers were even more Scroogelike at the box office over the weekend than originally estimated as ticket sales fell more than 16 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago. Final figures put the take for Disney's A Christmas Carol at $30.1 million, a figure somewhat inflated by 3D premium pricing at more than 2,000 screens and nearly 200 IMAX sites. Even so, it was nearly $1 million less than the studio's estimates on Sunday. Three other movies opened wide over the weekend. Producing the strongest showing was the George Clooney romp The Men Who Stare at Goats, which drew a decent $12.7 million. It came in slightly ahead of the horror movie The Fourth Kind, which took in $12.2 million. But The Box collapsed with just $7.6 million. Opening in limited release, Precious took in $1.87 million in just 18 theaters -- and produced a per-theater record for any film opening in more than six theaters. Veteran box-office tracker Paul Dergarabedian described the per-theater result -- $104,025 -- as "massive, unbelievable."

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Box Office Mojo (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. Disney's A Christmas Carol, Disney, $30,051,075, (New); 2. Michael Jackson's This Is It!, Sony, $13,157,944, 2 Wks., ($57,013,286); 3. The Men Who Stare at Goats, Overture, $12,706,654, (New); 4. The Fourth Kind, Universal, $12,231,160, (New); 5. Paranormal Activity, Paramount, $8,278,605, 7 Wks., ($97,108,475); 6. The Box, Warner Bros., $7,571,417, (New); 7. Couples Retreat, Universal, $6,129,045, 5 Wks., ($95,680,555); 8. Law Abiding Citizen, Overture Films, $6,003,737, 4 Wks., ($60,704,335); 9. Where The Wild Things Are, Warner Bros., $4,177,249, 4 Wks., ($69,220,584); 10. Astro Boy, Summit Ent. $2,626,103, 2 Wks., ($15,110,804).

CAPITALISM NOT SO LOVELY FOR LIBERTY MEDIA

Liberty Media acknowledged Monday that its decision to bring Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story to the screen via its Overture Films studio turned out to be not the best capital investment. In its quarterly report, Liberty noted that its Liberty Capital unit, which runs Overture (oddly, not its Liberty Entertainment unit), posted a 22-percent drop in revenue and cited the Moore documentary as one of two disappointing releases that dragged down its income. (The other was the sci-fi flick Pandorum.) The film, which was released in September, grossed just $13.7 million. Word that Liberty had agreed to back the Moore film originally raised eyebrows since it in effect paired the liberal Moore with the staunchly libertarian John Malone, the head of Liberty. But it was said that the two saw eye-to-eye on most aspects of the financial crisis. (Overture has seen a boost in its current quarter from Law Abiding Citizen and The Men Who Stare at Goats.) Aside from Overture, most of Liberty's other businesses showed a small improvement in the quarter or were flat. Nevertheless, shares in the company fell 6 percent on Monday. Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen attributed the fall "to investors' expectation of even faster U.S. growth."

HEADS CONTINUE TO FALL AT DISNEY

Like a replay of Alice in Wonderland in which the Queen orders, "Off with their heads!" top executives of the Walt Disney Company continue to fall. Mark Zoradi, head of Disney's motion pictures group, is the latest to be forced out, following the ouster of longtime Disney Studios Chairman Dick Cook in September and Miramax chief Daniel Battsek in October. Only last weekend Zoradi was awarded the Louis B. Mayer's leader of the year award in the motion picture business from the UCLA Anderson School of Management. But some industry observers have observed that Disney chief Robert Iger regarded him and the other ousted executives as being too wedded to the past and therefore too reticent to launch bold initiatives -- like closing the window between theatrical and DVD releases.

SONY PUSHING ELECTRONIC MOVIE DOWNLOADS

Sony said Monday that it plans to offer Disney/Pixar's animated hit Up for purchase on its PlayStation Network beginning today (Tuesday), the day the movie is released on DVD and Blu-ray. The movie is priced at $14.99 for standard definition and $19.99 for high-definition. (Newer PlayStation models are capable of playing Blu-ray discs.) Sony also said that it will offer some 80 Disney feature films for sale in coming days, two-thirds of them in both standard- and high-definition versions. In a separate announcement, Sony Electronics said that owners of its Bravia HDTV sets and Blu-ray Disc players will be able to watch its Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs beginning Dec. 8, a month before the DVD and Blu-ray releases hit store shelves. Sony is the first company to utilize its Internet-enabled TVs and other networked devices to stream feature films directly to consumers' televisions prior to availability on DVD or Blu-ray," said Hiro Kawano, SVP for Sony Electronics' home division business. However, the price for the advance rental will be steep -- $24.99 for a 24-hour period. However, it said, anyone buying a new Bravia TV set or a Sony Blu-ray player between now and January 4 will receive a 24-hour rental of the film for free.

Cinemark Movie Club