SCORSESE FINALLY SCORES BOX-OFFICE HIT

Martin Scorsese, who has received plenty of critical praise and film awards in the past, but has never had a big box-office opening, finally has seen one of his films open big. His The Departed, starring Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon, debuted with $27 million -- at the high end of analysts' expectations (but lower than those of the film's producer), almost three times higher than his previous best -- $10.3 million for 1991's Cape Fear. New Line's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre opened in second place with $19.2 million, same $3 million more than it cost to produce. Last weekend's top film, Sony's animated Open Season, fell to third place to $16 million. Overall, the box office was up 16 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago, with $102 million. Meanwhile, overseas The Devil Wears Prada surprised box-office analysts with a solid take of about $17.3 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter, which noted that the film defied "the old industry saw that domestic satire doesn't travel well." (The explanation might have something to do with the fact that many theater complexes are now located in high-end shopping malls.) It displaced last weekend's top film, World Trade Center, which dropped to No. 2 with around $12.5 million.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. The Departed, $27 million; 2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, $19.15 million; 3. Open Season, $16 million; 4. Employee of the Month, $11.8 million; 5. The Guardian, $9.6 million; 6. Jackass Number Two, $6.4 million; 7. School for Scoundrels, $3.4 million; 8. Gridiron Gang, $2.3 million; 9. Jet Li's Fearless, $2.2 million; 10. The Illusionist, $1.8 million.

CLICK TO DEBUT ON NEW HIGH-CAPACITY HI-DEF DVD

Sony's Click, starring Adam Sandler, will become the first movie to be released on the new 50GB Blu-ray discs, Sony's double-capacity high-definition DVDs. The company said that the movie will become available in retail locations beginning Tuesday, to be followed by Black Hawk Down on November 14 and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby on December 12. Because of the greater capacity, the new Blu-ray discs will also be able to include all of the "extras" available on the conventional DVD. Only one hardware manufacturer, Samsung, is currently marketing a Blu-ray player.

BUDGET SOARS FOR EVAN ALMIGHTY

Costs have skyrocketed for Universal's upcoming Evan Almighty, starring Steve Carell, with final expenditures likely to exceed at least $175 million -- $250 million, including marketing -- the Los Angeles Times reported today (Monday). Such a budget would make it the most expensive comedy in history, the newspaper observed. According to the Times, studio executives have acknowledged that the Bruce Almighty sequel has exceeded original budget estimates but are confident it will eventually be profitable. Describing the film as a "spectacle fantasy and also a comedy," Universal Chairman Marc Shmuger told the newspaper that it is "a great bet." The newspaper quoted unnamed sources as blaming the overruns on the studio's desire to release the film during the holiday season in December, thereby cutting preparation time and forcing the crew to shoot scenes in Virginia during a rainy period. (Bad weather reportedly forced an 11-day production delay.) Producers also encountered delays having to film hundreds of animals (it's a kind of Noah's arc tale), with predators like lions and tigers having to be separated from monkeys and giraffes.

PRISCILLA MOVES FROM FILM TO STAGE

A musical stage version of the classic Australian drag-queen film, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, has premiered in Sydney with a budget three times larger than the film's. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corp., director Simon Phillips remarked, "It's a great responsibility to something that's such a treasure in the Australian film iconography to find a vivid and exciting and joyful way of putting it on stage." More than 400 costumes are used during the performance. In his review, Bryce Hallet of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote that, while the musical needs further development, Phillips's "bold, exuberant and colorful production celebrates the film's spirit of defiance." But Deborah Jones in The Australian commented that an important element of the movie was lost by the need to pack 25 songs into the story. "Wat's lost -- not completely, but in large measure," she writes, "is the complex texture of characters and relatiionships that give the film its heart and soften and accommodate its crude edges."

Brian B.