NO GRUDGE MATCH

Executives at Sony who are assigned to estimate the weekend box-office gross of the company's releases significantly overestimated earnings for The Grudge 2, which was the top earner with $20.83 million. On Sunday they estimated that the film had taken in $22 million. They may have been thrown, however, by the film's $10.3-million take on Friday. Box-office forecasts are based on actual numbers for Friday and Saturday and best guesses for Sunday. In this case, however, Friday fell on the 13th, a propitious date for a horror film. Moreover, exit surveys of the audience generally registered unhappiness with the film. Meanwhile, Warner Bros.' The Departed performed better than forecast, raking in $19.03 million versus the studio's estimate on Sunday of $18.7 million. The biggest surprise may have been the performance of the biblical flick One Night with the King. Although showing on only 909 screens, the film earned $4.1 million, or $4,500 per screen, placing it at No. 9 among the top earners. But The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, playing on just 46 screens, earned $1 million for a per-screen average of more than $22,000.

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 Grudge 2, Sony, $20,825,300, (New); 2. The Departed, Warner Bros., $19,034,294, 2 Wks. ($56,985,185); 3. Man of the Year, Universal, $12,299,380, (New); 4. Open Season, Sony, $11,112,795, 3 Wks. ($59,267,065); 5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, New Line, $7,485,290, 2 Wks. ($30,192,411); 6. The Marine, 20th Century Fox, $7,138,774, (New); 7. The Guardian, Disney, $5,866,998, 3 Wks. ($41,132,922); 8. Employee of the Month, Lionsgate, $5,271,088, 2 Wks. ($19,581,504); 9. One Night With the King, 8x, $4,106,862, (New); 10. Jackass: Number Two, Paramount, $3,329,091, 4 Wks. ($68,377,686).

SONY MAY LOWER EARNINGS FORECAST

Although Sony's film studio recorded its 12th movie to open at No. 1 and remains the most successful studio in 2006, the Tokyo-based company indicated today (Tuesday) that it will likely lower its annual earnings forecast. The company has been hit hard by a massive battery recall that not only is expected to cost it $200-300 million but has also tarnished its reputation for reliability. Moreover, the company has been forced to cut its pricetag for the PlayStation 3, even before it goes on sale, as analysts convincingly argued that consumers would shun the device at the planned price.

MORGAN FREEMAN'S MOVIE TO GO TO THEATERS AND WEB ON SAME DAY

Actor-producer Morgan Freeman will be joining Mark Cuban in offering independent films on DVD and for downloading online at about the same time they open in theaters. Freeman has announced a joint venture with Intel called Clickstar that will offer his low-budget movie 10 Items or Less beginning Dec. 1, the same day it premieres theatrically. Prices have not yet been set. The website is also planning to launch a free "channel," hosted by Danny DeVito called Jersey Docs, highlighting documentaries. Intel reportedly plans to promote the website as part of its marketing campaign for the new Viiv computers, which can deliver web content to home TV sets.

STONE HIRES CONSERVATIVE TO WRITE SCRIPT ABOUT AFGHAN CONFLICT

Director Oliver Stone, an outspoken Hollywood liberal who has condemned the war in Iraq, has raised eyebrows by his choice of Cyrus Nowresteh, a political conservative who wrote the controversial ABC miniseries The Path to 911, to write his next movie, Jawbreaker. The movie is to be based on a book by former CIA operative Gary Berntsen that is critical of efforts by the Clinton administration to end Taliban rule in Afghanistan and hunt down Osama bin Laden. Nowresteh, who last year participated in a panel at the Liberty Film Festival titled "Rebels With a Cause: How Conservatives Can Lead Hollywood's Next Paradigm Shift," has claimed that critics of The Path to 911 reacted with "hysteria" towards its depiction of a Clinton White House that avoided taking a firm approach to radicals in the Middle East.

ANG LEE TO HELP DEVELOP OLYMPICS CEREMONIES

Director Ang Lee, famous for his martial arts films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and winner of the best-director Oscar for last year's Brokeback Mountain, has been asked to help develop the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. The appointment is particularly significant since Mainland China refuses to recognize Taiwan, Lee's homeland, as a sovereign territory.

Brian B.