i>ENCHANTED LIVES UP TO ITS NAME

Disney had some Enchanted weekend, with its latest hand-drawn animated/live romance drawing $50.05 million over the five days, $35.3 million over the weekend. "I think Disney has a major hit on their hands,'' Paul Dergarabedian, president of Media By Numbers, told Bloomberg News. "I think word-of-mouth will be very good on this one." Underscoring the appeal of family movies, the low-budget film This Christmas, starring a relatively unknown cast, placed second with $27.1 million for the five days and $18.6 million for the weekend. After weeks of mostly dismal box-office results, the weekend gave studios much to be thankful for, with an overall gross up 4.4 percent over 2006. "That's good for an industry that's been in a downtrend for almost two months," Dergarabedian said in a separate interview with the Associated Press. "Thanksgiving sets the tone for the rest of the year and the holiday season in general. This was a key weekend, and it delivered." Meanwhile, Beowulf held on to the box office lead overseas with a weekend gross of $26 million, Daily Variety reported today (Monday). It also noted that Disney's Ratatouille pushed past the $400-million mark in foreign sales. The only other films to accomplish that feat this year were the latest Pirates of the Caribbean, Spider-Man, Shrek, and Harry Potter sequels.

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

1. Enchanted, $35.3 million; 2. This Christmas, $18.6 million; 3. Beowulf, $16.2 million; 4. Hitman, $13 million; 5. Bee Movie, $12 million; 6. Fred Claus, $10.7 million; 7. August Rush, $9.4 million; 8. American Gangster, $9.2 million; 9. The Mist, $9.1 million; 10. No Country for Old Men, $8.1 million.

DANIEL CRAIG SAYS COMPASS NOT ANTI-RELIGIOUS

James Bond star Daniel Craig has come to the defense of The Golden Compass after the book on which it is based was ordered removed from school libraries in the Canadian province of Ontario. Catholic lay leaders in Canada and the U.S. have denounced the book as anti-Catholic in particular and antireligious in general. Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, the largest Catholic lay group in the U.S., has called Compass "atheism for kids." Kurt Bruner, author of Shedding Light on His Dark Materials, told CNSNews.com, a unit of the conservative Media Research Center, that the book and movie reflect "a story which is all about Satan overthrowing the authority of God." But in an interview with the Toronto Globe & Mail, Craig, who has a featured role in Compass, said, "These books are not anti-religious. I think that mainly they're anti-misuse of power -- whether it's religious or political." Toronto bookseller Ben McNally noted that he found the actions of the school authorities curious given the fact that the books have been available in Ontario schools for more than a decade and are just now attracting controversy as the date for the movie's premiere approaches. (It is due to open on Dec. 7.) "I mean, where have these people been?" McNally asked. And in an interview with the Christian Post, Golden Compass director Chris Weitz remarked, I think it's a shame that people are reacting to a movie they haven't seen by attacking a book they haven't understood."

WRITERS, STUDIOS RETURN TO NEGOTIATING TABLE

Negotiators for the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers are set to resume talks today (Monday) for the first time since the writers' strike began on November 5. News reports suggest that the two sides remain far apart and are not likely to show much flexibility in their positions -- at least not during the first days or perhaps weeks of negotiations. Talks are initially expected to focus on the thorny issue of residuals for Internet delivery of TV shows and movies. Both the guild and the studios have agreed to clamp a media blackout on the negotiating sessions and have even decided to meet in a secret location, hoping, apparently, to elude the press.

NEW YORK TIMES HAILS COLUMNIST AS "POWER BROKER"

As a result of her coverage of the WGA strike on her Deadline Hollywood Daily website, L.A. Weekly columnist Nikki Finke has "solidified her position as a Hollywood power broker," the New York Times commented today (Monday). In recent days (including today), Finke has been highly critical of Daily Variety for allegedly taking the side of the studios in the strike in order to curry favor with the trade paper's principal advertisers. Variety editor Tim Gray acknowledged that Finke and unnamed bloggers had generated "considerable noise" affecting the paper. However, he added, "We just tend to our business and check our facts." Screen and TV writers interviewed for the Times article suggested that they regard Finke as an ally, but early in the dispute, Finke herself suggested that the writers have more to lose than to gain from a strike over new media revenue. She told the Times that for her, coverage of the strike has "been brutal, but it's also been exhilarating because I love news. I love it -- a scoop is better than sex."

WRITER NAMED "ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR"

In a surprise, Time Inc.'s Entertainment Weekly magazine has named Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling Entertainer of the Year. The magazine observed that the Potter "industry" has thus far produced $15 billion in revenue, of which $4.49 billion was attributed to the five Harry Potter films, making the franchise the most lucrative in history. It also gave Rowling credit for getting "people to tote around her big, old-fashioned printed-on-paper books as if they were the hottest new entertainment devices on the planet."

JET LI RECEIVES RECORD FEE FOR CHINESE FILM

Jet Li was paid $13 million to star in the upcoming The Warlords, the highest fee ever paid to an actor appearing in a Chinese-language film, China's Xinhua news agency reported Sunday. Peter Chan, director of the film, said that landing Li for the movie was key to getting financing for the film, which is budgeted at $40 million. It is scheduled to be released in Asia next month and in the U.S. and Canada in March.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.