i>GANGSTER SWATS BEE

Ending a box-office downturn that saw ticket sales fall significantly below last year for six consecutive weeks, the openings of American Gangster and Bee Movie brought moviegoers back to theaters again in droves. Gangster, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe,raked in an estimated $46.3 million; Bee Movie, $39.1 million. The crime drama, while expected to perform well, outdid forecasts -- doing more business in its opening weekend than any other film of its genre in film history. It was also the best opening for both Crowe and Washington. Bee Movie, on the other hand, performed somewhat below expectations -- and also below many major computer-animated movies. An intensive promotional campaign by Jerry Seinfeld may have been offset by generally poor reviews. However, Anne Globe, DreamWorks Animation's head of worldwide marketing, expressed satisfaction with the results, telling the Los Angeles Times: "It feels like we're igniting the holiday season." In an interview with the Associated Press, Media by Numbers chief Paul Dergarabedian commented, ""It took three of the biggest stars in the world to get the box office back on track, and they did it in high style with two totally different kinds of movies. ... You had an R-rated movie and a PG-rated movie bringing in a really diverse audience." However, a third newcomer, Martian Child, starring John Cusack, tanked, with just $3.7 million, adding to a long string of New Line failures of late. Last week's top film Saw IV, dropped 65 percent from its opening to $11 million.

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

1. American Gangster, $46.3 million; 2. Bee Movie, $39.1 million; 3. Saw IV, $11 million; 4. Dan in Real Life, $8.1 million; 5. 30 Days of Night, $4 million; 6. The Game Plan, $3.85 million; 7. Martian Child, $3.65 million; 8. Michael Clayton, $2.9 million; 9. Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?, $2.7 million; 10. Gone Baby Gone, $2.4 million.

FIFTH STRAIGHT OVERSEAS WIN FOR RATATOUILLE

Overseas, Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille remained the main dish for the fifth straight weekend as it added $14.5 million to its total gross, which now stands at $577 million worldwide (of which $371.8 million is derived from overseas ticket sales), according to Daily Variety. The trade publication noted that it was the first time any film has held onto the lead at the foreign box-office since Night at the Museum accomplished that feat at the beginning of the year.

WRITERS' STRIKE WON'T HIT MOVIES SOON

Hollywood screenwriters took to the picket lines today (Monday), beginning what many Hollywood analysts predicted would be a lengthy and costly strike. The movie business was not expected to feel the effects of the strike for some time, however, since movie scripts are generally completed long before production begins. While rewrites sometime occur while a film is in production, they are generally not critical. Today's (Monday) Daily Variety observed that actors might be permitted to improvise some scenes or even write them if they are not members of the WGA. Studios, however, are expected to lose many promotional opportunities as late-night talk shows are shut down by the strike.

SUMMER TICKET SALES SOAR FOR CINEPLEX

Although the box-office went into a slump in October, the previous three months -- July through September -- produced record financial results for exhibitor Cineplex Entertainment. The Canadian-based theater chain reported a 22.6-percent increase in revenue to $261 million from $213 million during the quarter as net earnings soared 166 percent to $26 million from $10 million.

CELEBS DOING WHAT NEWSPAPERS ARE NOT, SAYS PEARL WIDOW

Mariane Pearl, widow of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, has defended Angelina Jolie (who portrayed her in A Mighty Heart) and other celebrities who speak out on current issues. In an interview with the online Radar magazine, Pearl remarked, "Celebrities are doing the work that journalists are not. We can't afford to be cynical about that." Pearl, who is promoting her book In Search of Hope, also criticized her late husband's newspaper. "I think the Wall Street Journal has one person covering Africa," she observed.

Brian B.