COUPLES RETREAT LEADS BOX-OFFICE CHARGE

Critics may have treated Couples Retreat the way airlines treat luggage, but over the weekend, the film, a vacation romp shot mostly in Tahiti, produced the best opening of the year for a romantic comedy -- $35.3 million, according to studio estimates. That was well above the $25-30 million that most industry experts had forecast. But it was hardly the biggest success story of the weekend. Paranormal Activity, the little $15,000 film that rewrote the book on movie marketing, took in $7.1 million in its official debut in just 159 theaters (it had previously played in a handful of college towns at midnight-only screenings). In an interview with the Associated Press, Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore credited online social networking with much of the movie's success. "Here's a case where it allows people to rally around a movie they care about and for them to have a sense of participation, then tell other people, 'Hey, this is something you should see, too,"' he said. A smaller weekend surprise was the modest (39 percent) decline in receipts for Zombieland in its second week, as it slipped to second place. Ordinarily horror films plunge by around 60 percent in their second week. (Zombieland was undoubtedly bolstered by the fact that it's also a comedy.) The computer animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs experienced an even slimmer decline -- just 24 percent -- as it earned an estimated $12 million and putting it on track to cross $100 million in total ticket sales before next weekend.

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

1. Couples Retreat, $35.3 million; 2. Zombieland, $15 million; 3. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, $12 million; 4. Toy Story and Toy Story 2 in 3-D, $7.7 million; 5. Paranormal Activity, $7.1 million; 6. Surrogates, $4.1 million; 7. The Invention of Lying, $3.4 million; 8. Whip It, $2.8 million; 9. Capitalism: A Love Story, $2.7 million; 10. Fame, $2.6 million.

UP A HIGH FLYER OVERSEAS

Overseas, Disney/Pixar's Up remained high on the agendas of most moviegoers as it brought in an additional $21 million from 25 countries to bring its overseas total to $257.1 million. After falling to Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds the previous weekend, the computer-animated film roared back, even as Tarantino's how-I-won-the-war flick dropped to $8.5 million. The film has performed best in France, where it is set. In that country it has earned $23.4 million, more than 15 percent of its total overseas receipts of $154.7 million from 50 countries. Rounding out the top five were, in order, The Ugly Truth, with $7.9 million, G-Force, with $7.8 million, and the historical epic Agora, which took in $7.3 million in Spain alone.

THIS IS IT TITLE SONG RELEASED

The title song for the upcoming Michael Jackson documentary This Is It was released today (Monday) by Sony Music, which called it "yet another exciting moment in music history for one of the world's most revered artists" (an odd choice of words given the fact that Jackson would have to be enjoying the excitement from the great beyond). Surprisingly, the single turned out to be the final recording of the Jackson Five, inasmuch as Michael's brothers added backing vocals to the recording, which presumably was made in connection with the singer's planned "This Is It" concert tour. (He died at age 50 on June 25, hours after participating in one of the final rehearsals for the tour) The documentary is composed mostly of clips from footage shot during the rehearsals. The title song will reportedly be played behind the closing credits. Somewhat eerily, it begins: "This is it, here I stand/I'm the light of the world, I feel grand."