LOTS OF ARRIVALS FOR THE DEPARTED

Moviegoers mobbed the box office over the weekend to see Martin Scorsese's latest gangland drama, The Departed, which made off with $26.9 million, according to final figures released by box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations Monday. The Warner Bros. film represented the best opening of Scorsese's career, but several analysts observed that most of the director's past films have been released on a so-called platform schedule -- that is, a few theaters at a time -- in order to build up word-of-mouth excitement. Still, the most profitable film over the weekend was New Line's horror flick The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, which brought in $18.5 million. While The Departed cost an estimated $90 million to make, Chainsaw cost only $16 million. Last week's winner, Sony's Open Season, slipped to third place with $15.6 million. The computer-animated film has now grossed $23.6 million. The critically maligned Employee of the Month from Lionsgate opened in fourth place with $11.4 million, while Disney's The Guardian rounded out the top five with $9.6 million.

The top ten films over the weekend, according to final figures compiled by Exhibitor Relations (figures in parentheses represent total gross to date):

1. The Departed, Warner Bros., $26,887,467, (New); 2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, New Line, $18,508,228, (New); 3. Open Season, Sony, $15,625,324, 2 Wks. ($43,754,064); 4. Employee of the Month, Lionsgate, $11,407,751, (New); 5. The Guardian, Disney, $9,568,092, 2 Wks. ($32,319,809); 6. Jackass: Number Two, Paramount, $6,516,968, 3 Wks. ($62,810,339); 7. School for Scoundrels, MGM, $3,433,587, 2 Wks. ($13,988,365); 8. Jet Li's Fearless (Huo Yuan Jia), Focus Features, $2,289,887, 3 Wks. ($21,751,327); 9. Gridiron Gang, Sony, $2,236,784, 4 Wks. ($36,557,430); 10. The Illusionist, Yari Film Group, $1,886,165, 8 Wks, ($34,128,177).

CANADA'S NO. 1 FILM IS TRAILER PARK BOYS

The Canadian box office, which usually mirrors the American, saw Trailer Park Boys: The Movie take the lead over The Departed with $1.3 million from about 200 screens in that country. Distributed by Canada's Alliance Atlantis and executive produced by Ivan Reitman, the movie is based on a popular Canadian comedy TV series, now in its sixth season, about a gang of dimwit thieves. In the film, they conspire to steal a large amount of change, figuring that it can't easily be traced. Toronto Globe & Mail TV columnist John Doyle remarked today (Tuesday), "The thing is, the very existence of the Trailer Park Boys movie is vitally important as a cultural event. ... It's an anti-bourgeois soap opera, a cheerful and loving celebration of life at the bottom. In this country we embrace those at the bottom of the social ladder. It's that embrace that makes us who we are."

HONG KONG DIRECTOR PRAISES, CRITICIZES SCORSESE'S ADAPTATION

Andrew Lau, the Hong Kong director whose Infernal Affairs served as the basis for The Departed, has given Martin Scorsese a thumbs-up for the adaptation, according it an eight on a scale of ten. "Of course I think the version I made is better, but the Hollywood version is pretty good too," Lau said in a telephone interview with the Hong Kong English-language tabloid, the Apple Daily. "I have to admit that Martin Scorsese is very smart. He made the Hollywood version more attuned to American culture," he added. The Departed closely follows the plot of Infernal Affairs, which won a best actor award for Tony Leung Chiu-wai in 2003, although it moves the setting from Hong Kong to Boston. Lau also criticized the amount of profanity in the Scorsese film.

JAMES BOND TO DRIVE A FORD?

The Ford Motor Company will unveil its all-new Ford Mondeo in the upcoming James Bond movie Casino Royale, as part of a product placement deal with Sony/MGM. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Reports said that although James Bond will still drive an Aston Martin in most of the film, he'll be seen at the beginning of the film driving the Mondeo to his hotel in the Bahamas. In a statement, Martin Smith design chief for Ford of Europe, disclosed that since the car won't roll off the assembly line until the second quarter of next year, "we had to create a one-off, drivable model based around a design studio property" in Cologne, Germany, then transport it in secrecy to the Bahamas, where it was filmed, and then returned in secrecy to Cologne. Ford of Europe Vice President Stephen Odell added, "It is particularly exciting for us to have this appearance by Ford's all-new flagship model in the same film that introduces a new James Bond [Daniel Craig]."

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS GOSSIP COLUMNIST FIRED

New York Daily News gossip columnist Lloyd Grove, who was hired away from the Washington Post by owner Mort Zuckerman in 2003 amid much fanfare, has confirmed that he has been fired. In a brief postscript to Monday's column, Grove wrote, I've been privileged to work with top-notch journalists and generous colleagues at a great newspaper. I'll miss it -- and them. I'm almost, but not quite, ready to tell you about the next gig, which I expect will be as fun and interesting as this one has been. Brought in to compete against the New York Post's "Page Six" column, Grove received national attention when he announced that he would refuse to mention Paris Hilton in his column. In reporting on Grove's departure, the New York Times commented, "Mr. Grove's strengths -- he is a serious newsman and a droll writer -- along with his sometimes indifferent relationship to his chosen subject, proved to be a handicap. It's hard to write down salacious items when one of your hands is occupied with holding your nose."

STORES MAY GET AN UNLIMITED SELECTION OF DVD'S

Store customers will soon be able to have the same wide choice of DVDs that they have online as a result of technology announced Monday by Sonic Solutions and Macrovision. The two companies said that they would be able to provide retail stores with the ability to download movies for their customers from a list of thousands of films, burn them onto DVDs, together with "extras," and print out cover art work. "This would let retailers stock the titles that sell the most and still have a kiosk that could provide thousands of more films," Kurt Sherf, an analyst at Parks Associates, told Bloomberg News. The system would also allow studios to make more of their libraries available on DVD, since currently there is little demand for three-quarters of their archived films and it is therefore not cost effective to release them on DVD, the companies observed.

FROM ONE BILLIONAIRE INTERNET ENTREPRENEUR TO ANOTHER: CONGRATS!

Mark Cuban, who sold Broadcast.com to Yahoo! for $5.7 billion at the height of the Internet bubble in 1999, had some advice Monday for the founders of YouTube, who sold their operation to Google for $1.65 billion in stock on Monday. "My advice to you is to always protect your downside. Ignore all the scammers who want your money, and don't listen to all the tax scammers who want to save you money on taxes," he wrote on his blog. Meanwhile, Cuban wrote that he thinks "Google is crazy" to have made the deal and predicts numerous lawsuits from copyright holders, particularly the major film studios, over material uploaded onto the site. "It will be interesting to see just how Google reconciles selling videos like Crazy in Love from Sony, when the same video is available as a user upload for free from YouTube," Cuban wrote.

Brian B.