JACKSON: IF ONLY HE HAD BEEN ALIVE TO SEE IT

In a case of what Billboard describes as turning "human tragedy into ... creative and financial triumph," the Michael Jackson concert documentary This Is It! opened with an estimated $32.5 million over its first five days ($21.3 million over the three-day weekend) in North America and $68.5 million in 97 other countries, including $10.4 million in Japan, $7.6 million in the U.K., $6.3 million in Germany, and $5.8 million in France. While the film's box office did not rival the openings of major studio blockbusters -- at least domestically -- it certainly exceeded the ticket sales for previous concert documentaries. Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds 3D Concert collected $31.1 million over a three-day weekend last year, which included 3D surcharges at most theaters (This Is It! played at a relative handful of IMAX venues), and $70.6 million worldwide. Like the Cyrus movie, This Is It! was announced as a limited-run event. But the movie had barely hit the screens before Sony announced that it was extending it until the Thanksgiving weekend. Overall ticket sales, which are typically soft over the last weekend of October and dismal over any weekend that includes Halloween, were up 7 percent over the comparable weekend last year. Meanwhile, Paranormal Activity continued to scare up ticket sales in its sixth week of release (three weeks nationwide), as it took in $16.5 million, to bring its domestic total to $84.8 million. But Saw VI bled 61 percent of its audience in its second week to wind up with about $5.6 million. Where the Wild Things Are suffered a worse decline, slumping 64 percent to $5.1 million. And The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day apparently played only to cult fans in the 68 theaters where it opened, earning $462,000.

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

1. Michael Jackson's This Is It, $21.3 million; 2. Paranormal Activity, $16.5 million; 3. Law Abiding Citizen, $7.3 million; 4. Couples Retreat, $6.1 million; 5. Saw VI, $5.6 million; 6. Where the Wild Things Are, $5.1 million; 7. The Stepfather, $3.4 million; 8. Astro Boy, $3.04 million; 9. Amelia, $3 million; 10. Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, $2.8 million.

IATSE MAY BOYCOTT AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE

IATSE, the movie industry's principal technical union, is taking on the august American Film Institute and threatening to boycott its activities because of what the union claims is the AFI's "outrageous anti-union activities." In a letter quoted today (Monday) by TheWrap.com, IATSE President Matthew Dr. Loeb charged that AFI was attempting to discourage employees working as ushers and ticket takers at the AFI's facility in Silver Spring, MD from seeking union representation. Noting that IATSE had supported the AFI in past years, Loeb said that he was "shocked by the position taken by the AFI" regarding the users and ticket takers in Maryland. He asked the union's membership to "support the IATSE in its efforts to assist these individuals in their right to organize by boycotting any AFI-sponsored events and to make known publicly that financial support of AFI should be withheld until this matter is resolved." The matter came to a head two weeks ago when the union leafleted the AFI's annual presentation of the DC Labor FilmFest. The AFI's projectionists are already represented by IATSE.

TV REVIEWS: POLIWOOD

Producer/director Barry Levinson takes a look at the convergence of celebrity and politics in the documentary Poliwood,which airs tonight (Monday) on Showtime. Featured in the film is a raft of Hollywood celebrities, including Susan Sarandon, Spike Lee, Ellen Burstyn, Tim Daly, Anne Hathaway and the late Ron Silver. Levinson, a celebrity in his own right with films such as Rain Man and the political satire Wag the Dog and with TV shows like Homicide: Life on the Street and Oz, attempts to show not only what happens when celebrities come together with politicians but also with ordinary folks. Most critics suggest that the result is confusing. Boston Herald critic Mark A. Perigard says that Levinson's documentary is simply too simplistic. Levinson, he notes, calls his film an "essay." That, says Perigard, is "like calling the back of a cereal box a novel." The Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitzcomments that Levinson presents "a tonnage of vague pronouncements." Ellen Gray in the Philadelphia Daily News remarks that "for all the eye-rolling that goes on as noncelebrities weigh in on what they believe is Hollywood's undue influence, Poliwood doesn't pack much of a punch." And Alessandra Stanley concludes in the New York Times: "Poliwood feeds our prurient fascination with celebrities' fascination with politics, but Mr. Levinson's thesis is undermined by an election process that he bemoaned but didn't film."