KUTCHER PUNKS BOX OFFICE

Two movies starring Ashton Kutcher performed better at the box office over the weekend than their studios had predicted, according to final figures released Monday by Exhibitor Relations. Sony's animated Open Season, in which Kutcher provides the voice of a slick deer, opened with $23.6 million, while Disney's live-action The Guardian in which Kutcher shares starring credit with Kevin Costner, opened with $18 million. A third new film, School for Scoundrels, took the dunce cap with just $8.6million. Last week's top film, Jackass: Number Two, dropped to third place with $14.6 million, bringing its total to $52.1 million. Perhaps the most impressive performance came from Miramax's The Queen, which opened in three New York theaters with $122,014 -- averaging a spectacular $40,671 per theater.

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

1. Open Season, Sony, $23,624,548, (New); 2. The Guardian, Disney, $18,006,064, (New); 3. Jackass: Number Two, Paramount, $14,605,343, 2 Wks. ($52,070,722); 4. School For Scoundrels, MGM, $8,602,333, (New); 5. Jet Li's Fearless (Huo Yuan Jia), Focus Features, $4,983,865, 2 Wks. ($18,066,869); 6. Gridiron Gang, Sony, $4,581,565, 3 Wks. ($33,258,307); 7. The Illusionist, Yari Film Group, $2,735,500, 7 Wks. ($31,378,398); 8. Flyboys, MGM, $2,351,841, 2 Wks. ($9,946,969); 9. The Black Dahlia, Universal, $2,129,070, 3 Wks. ($20,742,610); 10. Little Miss Sunshine, Fox Searchlight, $1,991,723, 10 Wks. ($53,133,641).

KING'S MEN DIRECTOR FEELS "LIKE GETTING HIT BY A TRUCK"

Oscar-winning screenwriter (Schindler's List) and director Steve Zaillian was clearly stunned by the critical and box-office failure of his latest film, All the King's Men, which opened with only $3.8 million in its debut and fell out of the top-ten in its second weekend. Zaillian told today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times that it was "like getting hit by a truck. ... I don't know what to make of it." Zaillian says he was particularly taken aback by the reaction of critics to his film about a Southern politician in the mold of Louisiana's Huey Long. "Maybe down the road I'll figure it out," he told the Times. "We're all a bit shellshocked. I feel like Huey Long must have felt -- you try to do good and they shoot you for it." Zaillian pointed out that studios are generally reluctant to finance a movie like King's Men. "It's dangerous for a studio to do financially," Zaillian said. "The reason to do it from the studio's standpoint is a good one -- because they believe in it in terms of the story."

NO GLORY FOR BORAT IN KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakhstan's largest movie chain has done the expected -- banned the upcoming movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The movie stars Sacha Baron Cohen as a Kazakh journalist who tours America depicting Kazakhs as a nation of misogynists, racists and anti-Semites. (Cohen is Jewish.) The theater chain, Otau Cinema, called the film "offensive, a complete lie and nonsense," and worried that "Americans will probably believe what they see there." Ironically, the same point was made by the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, which expressed concern "that the audience may not always be sophisticated enough to get the joke and that some may even find it reinforcing their bigotry. While Mr. Cohen's brand of humor may be tasteless and even offensive to some, we understand that the intent is to dash stereotypes."

TONY WINNER HISTORY BOYS MAKES COMMAND PERFORMANCE AS MOVIE

The film version of the Tony-award-winning play The History Boys received a command performance in London Monday night, just hours after the cast who appeared in both the play and the film made their final appearance on Broadway. The charity premiere was attended by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. The cast members have been together since the play originally opened in 2004. In an interview with the BBC, Richard Griffiths, who received the best actor Tony this year, commented: "The ability to trust your fellows is enormously powerful and important on screen and on stage. It means you can push the limits, the possibilities of a scene way past what the author asked for." The film is due to open in the U.S. in November.

Brian B.