THE WORLD ENDS WITH A BANG

2012 certainly shook things up at the box office over the weekend. The Sony film took in an estimated $65 million domestically and another $120 million overseas leaving just about every other film grasping for life and box-office prognosticators and movie critics gasping at the magnitude of its triumph. "Even the Maya would have struggled to forecast an opening weekend this big," commented the Los Angeles Times, referring to the central premise of the movie -- that the ancient Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012. "Doom spelled dollars," said the Associated Press. Nevertheless, the weekend gross, which unlike many other recent hits, did not have the benefit of premium 3D ticket pricing going for it, ranked far behind director Roland Emmerich's previous disaster epic, The Day After Tomorrow, which opened with $85.8 million over the Memorial Day holiday in 2004 and trailed farther still in attendance. The only other film to open (relatively) wide this weekend, Pirate Radio, foundered with just $2.9 million at 882 theaters. Last week's winner, Disney's A Christmas Carol, managed to bring in about $22.3 million this time around, a modest 26-percent drop, but that may have been small comfort for the Walt Disney Co., which spent nearly as much on the movie as Sony spent on 2012. Still, it's got an entire holiday season ahead of it to try to catch up. Continuing to impress was Lionsgate's Precious, which took in around $6.1 million in just 174 theaters -- or $35,000 per theater. The movie, which was screened in just nine cities expands to around 100 next weekend. Another newcomer, 20th Century Fox's Fantastic Mr. Fox, debuted in just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles with an impressive $260,000. It is due to open wide next Wednesday. Other films drew small audiences -- and in fact, despite the huge ticket sales for 2012, the total box office gross for all films ended up 6 percent behind the comparable week a year ago, when the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace debuted with $67.5 million.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo:

1. 2012, $65 million; 2. Disney's A Christmas Carol, $22.3 million; 3. The Men Who Stare at Goats, $6.2 million; 4. Precious, $6.1 million; 5. Michael Jackson's This Is It!, $5.1 million; 6. The Fourth Kind, $4.7 million; 7. Couples Retreat, $4.3 million; 8. Paranormal Activity, $4.2 million; 9. Law Abiding Citizen, $3.9 million; 10. The Box, $3.2 million.

MOVIE REVIEWS: FANTASTIC MR. FOX

The stop-motion animated Fantastic Mr. Fox, with a voice cast that includes George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe and Jason Schwartzman, received enthusiastic reviews from national critics and those in Los Angeles and New York, where the film opened over the weekend. Directed by Wes Anderson from the Roald Dahl children's book, the film looks rather primitive compared with today's state-of-the-art 3D computer-animated features, the critics agree, while also observing that may be part of its charm. Indeed, Lou Lumenick in the New York Post described it as "a retro marvel." None of the critics appeared to be put off at all by the unrefined imagery. "Once you adjust to its stop-and-start rhythms and its scruffy looks, you can appreciate its wit, its beauty and the sly gravity of its emotional undercurrents," wrote A.O. Scott in the New York Times. Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News escalated the praise, calling the movie, "a visual treasure that successfully blends deadpan quirkiness with a wry realism rarely seen in any film, let alone one for children." In USA Today Claudia Puig somewhat reticently concluded that Anderson renders Dahl's story as "a sometimes witty, if odd, cartoon for all ages." Actually, several critics suggested it may not be a movie for children at all. Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times called it "ultrasophisticated," adding that it "does more than occupy its own particular space between the worlds of childhood and adults. It provides a pleasantly cerebral experience, exhilarating and fizzy, that goes to your head like too much Champagne."

2012 LIKELY TO FALL TO TWILIGHT 2

Suggesting that 2012's supremacy at the box office is likely to be short-lived, the online ticket seller Fandango said Sunday that its advance sales for The Twilight Saga: New Moon has sold more tickets in advance of its opening than any film in history. The film, which opens at midnight Thursday/Friday, has also altered the plans of theater owners, for as each midnight screening sells out, they have reportedly been adding new ones, presumably by "bicycling" prints between screens. Last year's original Twilight, which opened on the same weekend, took in $69 million, and some analysts are predicting that the new one could earn close to $100 million, and a few are predicting it could challenge Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which has the year's best opening weekend with $108 million.

GANNETT NEWSPAPERS GIVE AWAY DVD'S OF OSCAR-WINNING FILM

Ordinarily short documentaries are seen by few people outside of art houses and film festivals, but Gannett, the nation's largest newspaper publisher (with 84 dailies), has given last year's Oscar winner, Smile Pinki, a huge audience by distributing one million DVDs of the film in Sunday editions of many of its newspapers. The film deals with the work of The Smile Train, a group that helps children with cleft lips in developing countries. In particular, the 39-minute film focuses on the case of a five-year-old Indian village girl in India's Uttar Pradesh's Mirzapur district. In a statement, Bob Dickey, president of Gannett U.S. Community Publishing, said, "The Smile Train focuses on helping children achieve their dreams. Through Gannett's vast network of local newspapers, we are pleased to help The Smile Train raise support for these children."