BOX OFFICE GETS HOT AGAIN

The Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading lit a fire under the box office over the weekend as it opened with an estimated $19.4 million. The comedy thriller starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand and John Malkovich edged out Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys, which took in $18 million. The Al Pacino-Robert De Niro drama Righteous Kill placed third (most analysts had predicted it would land in first place) with $16.5 million, while the comedy The Women opened with an estimated $10.1 million. House Bunny rounded out the top five with $4.3 million. In its fifth week, the Ben Stiller comedy Tropic Thunder added $4.2 million to its domestic gross, putting it just over the $100-million mark. The overall box-offic results appeared to end a seven-week box office slump.

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

1. Burn After Reading, $19.4 million; 2. Tyler Perry's The Family that Preys, $18.0 million; 3. Righteous Kill, $16.5 million; 4. The Women, $10.1 million; 5. The House Bunny, $4.3 million; 6. Tropic Thunder, $4.2 million; 7. The Dark Knight, $4.0 million; 8. Bangkok Dangerous, $2.4 million; 9. Traitor, $2.1 million; 10. Death Race, $2.0 million.

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE FAMILY THAT PREYS

All five of Tyler Perry's movies have wound up as big money-makers, but they have generally received cool-to-lukewarm reviews from critics (which is undoubtedly why his latest film, The Family That Preys received no advance press screening). The new Perry film, is an exception, however, garnering quite a number of positive reviews. Indeed, Bob Baker constructs his review of the film in today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times as a memo to Perry, writing, "Dude, what made you refuse to screen your film for critics before it opened Friday? I'm betting you would have received an earful of praise for your writing and directing." Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer is one of those shouting her praise. "Defiantly old-school, undeniably entertaining, Tyler Perry's The Family That Preys is a shiny, two-timing throwback to 1950s melodramas like Giant, those wellsprings of such prime-time soaps as Dallas and Dynasty. The writer/director/actor ... whips up the suds with the best of 'em," Rickey writes. Roger Moore's review in the Orlando Sentinel includes much criticism of the plot; nevertheless, he observes that the movie marks Perry's "most cinematically polished production to date, [showing] grand advances in [his] filmmaking education." Still, there are plenty of naysayers, as well. Stephen Holden in the New York Times writes that suds "cascade" through "this crude interracial fable." And Ty Burr in the Boston Globe comments that Perry has served up "a plate of leftovers, a bland, baldly written melodrama."

UNRELEASED INDIE FILMS TO GET VOD EXPOSURE

Independent filmmakers who have been unable to find a distributor for their productions -- and that includes the majority of them -- are about to get a boost from the Sundance Channel, which New York-based Cablevision acquired last year from Robert Redford and partners NBC and CBS. Today's (Monday) Los Angeles Times reported that the channel plans to launch a video-on-demand service called Sundance Selects that will offer about 50 mostly unreleased movies a year. Joshua Sapan, president and CEO of Sundance parent Rainbow Media, told the newspaper that he believes that Sundance Select "will democratize and emancipate independent film. ... The market is hardly efficient. It is increasingly becoming a system in service of blockbusters."

KUNG FU PANDA TO BE RELEASED WITH SEQUEL

Making a bid for top-selling status over the coming holiday period, Paramount Home Video plans to package the DreamWorks Animation hit Kung Fu Panda with an unreleased sequel, Secrets of the Furious Five, and release the package on a Sunday, November 9, instead of the usual Tuesday, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The package, being released under the title, Pandamonium Double Pack, will be available on both standard DVD and on high-definition Blu-ray and will be priced at about $25.

PITT AND JOLIE: HOLLYWOOD'S MOST POWERFUL

Brad Pitt holds the title of the Most Powerful Actor and his companion, Angelina Jolie, holds the title of the Most Powerful Actress in the Guinness Book of World Records 2009 edition. They replace Tom Cruise and Jennifer Aniston who held the titles in the 2008 edition. Guinness editors select the winners in the publication's annual Most Powerful categories based on a combination of such factors as Internet searches, annual earnings, and news-media stories. Pill and Jolie did not dominate in all fields, however. The most-searched subject celebrity on the Internet over the past year, the Guinness folks observed, has been Britney Spears.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.