STUDIOS OPERATING AT A LOSS, SAYS REPORT

Back-end participation deals with top directors, producers and actors, in which they receive a percentage of a movie's gross -- regardless of whether it is profitable -- have been principally responsible for pushing the movie industry into an annual loss, according to a report produced by research company Global Media Intelligence and Merrill Lynch and reported by today's (Monday) New York Times. In its report about the study, the newspaper commented that it may be particularly relevant during the current writers' strike. "As it turns out, the pot of money that the producers and writers are fighting over may have already been pocketed by the entertainment industry's biggest talent," the Times said. The study examined releases last year that yielded $23.7 billion from sales to domestic theaters, foreign theaters, home video, pay television and every other source of income. Total costs for those films, however, amounted to $25.6 billion -- or a combined loss of $1.9 billion. The loss, the study determined was due partly to a 15.5-percent decline in foreign DVD sales, but "the real killer," said the Times was the growth in participations, which totaled an estimated $3 billion. By comparison, the newspaper noted, citing WGA figures, total residuals for the year amounted to $121.3 million, while a single actor could easily earn $70 million from a so-called first-dollar gross deal on a hit movie. And such deals amount to super-residuals. As Steven Blume, CEO of Content Partners, a company that buys participations for cash, told the Times. "These participations are paid in perpetuity."

BEE BUZZES PAST GANGSTER

Jerry Seinfeld, who is used to making end runs around his competition, has taken the lead at the box office with his animated Bee Movie. The film, which opened in second place last week behind American Gangster, moved to No. 1 with an estimated take of $26 million and should further enhance its standing today (Monday) with kids out of school for the extended Veteran's Day holiday. Its gross now stands at around $72.2 million. "It's so rare to do what Bee Movie has done, Media by Numbers President Paul Dergarabedian told today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times, attributing its jump to first place to "terrific word of mouth." Meanwhile, Gangster remained a potent force as it chalked up earnings of $24.3 million. After remaining ahead of the Seinfeld flick from Monday through Thursday, the film can now boast a 10-day total of $80.6 million. On the other hand, Fred Claus, starring Vince Vaughn -- the film most box-office prognosticators thought would wind up as the top film -- wound up in third place with $19.2 million, at the low end of their predictions. The Tom Cruise-Robert Redford-Meryl Street anti-war drama Lion for Lambs performed slightly better than analysts had imagined, taking in $6.7 million. The stalker flick P2 opened in 1,032 theaters with $2.2 million. Making an impressive debut in just 28 theaters, the Coen Bros.' No Country for Old Men earned $1.2 million or $42,900 per theater. That compares with $6,600 per theater for Bee Movie. Overall, the box office was down 11.6 percent from the comparable weekend last year. Next week, however, is expected to see a significant rise with the opening of the Robert Zemeckis-directed Beowulf, starring Angelina Jolie. The film will have the largest rollout ever on 3-D screens -- more than 1,000 -- with premium pricing attached to those screenings and those at dozens of IMAX venues.

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

1. Bee Movie, $26 million; 2. American Gangster, $24.3 million; 3. Fred Claus, $19.2 million; 4. Lions for Lambs, $6.7 million; 5. Dan in Real Life, $5.9 million; 6. Saw IV, $5 million; 7. The Game Plan, $2.4 million; 8. P2, $2.2 million; 9. 30 Days of Night, $2.1 million; 10. Martian Child, $1.75 million.

CUBAN: BILL O'REILLY IS "MY NEW BEST FRIEND"

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who also heads the film company 2929 Entertainment and the TV channel HDNet and writes a regular blog, has called Fox News's Bill O'Reilly "my new best friend." Speaking at the Blog World Expo in Las Vegas Friday, Cuban acknowledged that his upcoming movie Redacted, directed by Brian DePalma, about how comments by some American soldiers fighting in Iraq have been censored by the military, had received little attention until O'Reilly began attacking it. As a result, he said, his "small film" has "grown bigger and bigger by the day. So I'm very grateful to him." He added, however, "At the same time, there is every bit of me that just wants to say, 'Bill O'Reilly is a moron.'"

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.