i>MARRIED TO THE TOP

Once again, Tyler Perry has had the last laugh. The writer-director-star, whose films are generally panned by critics and dismissed by box-office analysts, saw his latest comedy, Why Did I Get Married?, top the box office with an estimated $21.5 million, taking in nearly twice as much as the No. 2 film, The Game Plan, which earned $11.5 million in its third week. Meanwhile, George Clooney's critically acclaimed legal drama Michael Clayton, which had been the expected winner, wound up instead with about $11 million, tying for third in the initial estimates with the crime drama We Own the Night. "This is the last time that anyone will underestimate Tyler Perry," Lions Gate distribution chief Tom Ortenberg told the Los Angeles Times. "Tyler's message of family values and personal redemption speaks very strongly to people who are not frequent moviegoers." (Perry's films appeal mostly to older black churchgoers; almost 90 percent of Married's ticket buyers were black.) Ortenberg made similar comments in other interviews, and in one with USA Today added, "It has been fun confounding the experts."

MOVIE REVIEWS: WHY DID I GET MARRIED?

Why Did I Get Married?, although not previewed for critics, nevertheless got some positive reviews from them over the weekend. Jeanette Catsoulis in the New York Times called it "a beautifully shot (by Toyomichi Kurita), fluid drama filled with compassionately written characters." And Bob Longino in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution commented that the film "might require a warning label: Prolonged audience laughter can cause moviegoers to miss some dialogue." That, he added is "a problem many Hollywood-made comedies only wish they had."

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

1. Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?, $21.5 million; 2. The Game Plan, $11.5 million; 3. Michael Clayton, $11.01 million; 4. We Own the Night, $11 million; 5. The Heartbreak Kid, $7.4 million; 6. Elizabeth: The Golden Age, $6.2 million; 7. The Kingdom, $4.6 million; 8. Across the Universe, $4 million; 9. Resident Evil: Extinction, $2.65 million; 10. The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising, $2.15 million.

THEATERS SELLING ADS LIKE POPCORN

Revenue from in-theater advertising rose more than 15 percent to $456 million from $395 million a year ago, according to a study by the Cinema Advertising Council and reported in today's (Monday) New York Post. Reporting on the results, the newspaper observed, "Advertisers eager to reach an audience stuck in their seats are buying up the time in between shows, making it one of the fastest-growing ad categories." The Post quoted CAC Chairman Cliff Marks as expressing the belief that moviegoers are becoming "more accepting" of screen advertising. A recent Arbitron poll indicated that two-thirds of moviegoers "don't mind" the ads.

INDIA ACCUSES MOVIE ACADEMY OF DISPARAGING ITS OSCAR CHOICE

The chairman of the committee that selected India's entry in the best foreign film category in this year's Oscars has accused the motion picture Academy of making "disparaging" comments about the selection. In an interview with Reuters, Vinod Pande discussed correspondence with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in which the Academy noted that the director of the critically acclaimed Dharm had gone to court to have the selection overturned, claiming that the judges were friendly with the producer of Eklavya, the film they selected. (Eklavya had received mediocre reviews, Reuters said, and flopped at the box office.) In its letter to Pande, the Academy said it was surprised to learn of the lawsuit and raised questions concerning the judging standards of the selection committee. "But I have told them we have strong democratic values and that an aggrieved person had every right to seek justice in court," Pande told the wire service.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.