JACKSON FILM IN LESS-THAN-THRILLER START

The Michael Jackson concert documentary This Is It! brought in $2.2 million at the box office in late-night screenings Tuesday -- very good, but far from extraordinary. Industry forecasters said that it was likely to earn $10-12 million by the end of the day Wednesday. Today's (Thursday) Los Angeles Times observed that comparisons are difficult inasmuch as only two major films have ever been released on a Wednesday outside of summer or the holiday periods. And each of them, The Passion of the Christ and The Matrix Revolutions collected more than twice what This Is It! is expected to earn. The film also faces a tough weekend ahead, since Halloween, which falls on Saturday, is a night when the moviegoing crowd usually is occupied with other activities. The Times noted, however, that regardless of how well -- or poorly -- the movie performs domestically, it is likely to become a smash hit overseas, where Jackson's image and reputation were never undermined the way they were in the U.S.

TRANSFORMERS TRANSFORMS DULL HOME-VIDEO MARKET

The home video business, which has been experiencing its worst downturn in recent memory, got an unsurprising boost from the release of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen last week. The Paramount DVD immediately took over first place on the sales, rental, and Blu-ray video charts. Some 7.5 million copies were sold during the first week -- 1.2 million on Blu-ray Disc, according to the Nielsen VideoScan First Alert sales chart. That compares with the year's biggest hit, Twilight, which has had $8 million in sales since it was released on DVD last March. The result is close that of the last Transformers sequel, which sold 8.3 million copies in its first week two years ago. But, as Video Business magazine pointed out, "At that point, consumers were not yet reeling with major recession woes, and DVD spending was closer to peak levels."

ONLINE PIRACY TRACKER TELLS STUDIOS TO MEND THEIR WAYS

The head of a company that tracks online piracy has suggested that the motion picture industry's own policies are at least partially to blame for the surge in illegal downloading -- especially overseas, where films are often released weeks -- sometimes months -- after they are available in the U.S. Eric Garland, the CEO of Big Champagne Media Measurement, has told CNET News that piracy has spread from kids to their parents in cities like Munich, Seville, and Paris. "The reason I single out the European cities," he said, "is because that's where people are forced to wait a long time to see content legally. In the digital world, we don't want to wait three months, six months. We're just not accepting that anymore...we want it all, we want it right now and even Mom and Pa Kettle are getting to the point where they say if it's not on, let's just fire up the computer and watch it. If they want me to wait six months, I've got other options. And people don't really have a conscious [sic] or qualms about that." Garland said that both the music industry and the movie business have failed to slow down piracy by targeting users and they will continue to lose to file-sharing sites by withholding content. The success of Apple's iTunes Music Store ought to be an eye-opener for studios, Garland said, even though record companies earn far less from online sales than they once did in retail stores. Like them, the studios must learn that the only way they are going to compete with pirates is by making "the commitment to living in the marketplace as it is and not as you wish it were or as it once was."

A PROPHET WINS LONDON FILM FESTIVAL

The French prison drama A Prophet, a hit at the Cannes Film Festival last May, where it received the second-place Grand Prize, moved into the winner's circle on Wednesday as it received the London Film Festival's first Best Film award. Actress Anjelica Huston, who served on the festival jury, called the movie "an instant classic and a masterpiece." This was the first year of competition at the London festival, which is attempting to boost its profile in an effort to compete with the more famous European festivals in Cannes, Berlin, and Venice. The festival is due to close tonight (Thursday) with a screening of Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy, about the early life of John Lennon.

Cinemark Movie Club