HAIL, HAIL, THE GANG'S A WINNER

The annual September blahs continued unabated at the box office as the top film, Sony's The Gridiron Gang, earned just $15 million and the No. 2 film, The Black Dahlia resembled the flower itself with just $10.4 million, according to studio estimates Other films debuting over the weekend even worse -- far worse. The animated Everyone's Hero was no one's, as it came in at No. 3 with $6.2 million, while moviegoers kissed off The Last Kiss with $4.7 million, which tied last weekend's top film, The Covenant for fourth place. According to Exhibitor Relations, the top 12 films earned $62 million, down 12 percent from the comparable weekend a year ago. The weekend did represent a landmark for Sony, which registered its 10th No. 1 opening of the year, establishing an industry record. The studio stands a shot of continuing its charmed season with the Sean Penn starrer All the King's Men next weekend. However, odds favor the Paramount comedy Jackass: Number Two.The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. The Gridiron Gang, $15 million; 2. The Black Dahlia, $10.4 million; 3. Everyone's Hero, $6.2 million; 4. The Last Kiss, $4.7 million; 4. (tie) The Covenant, $4.7 million; 6. Invincible, $3.9 million; 7. The Illusionist, $3.8 million; 8. Little Miss Sunshine, $3.4 million; 9. Hollywoodland, $2.7 million; 10. Crank, $2.7 million.

SURPRISE WINNER AT TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL

Stunning the filmmaker and critics alike, the Toronto Film Festival on Saturday gave first-time director Alejandro Gomez Monteverde its prestigious People's Choice award for his romantic film Bella. Accepting the award, Monteverde, a 29-year-old Mexican-born director who came to the U.S. as a teenager, said: "I really hope that this is not a dream and that I don't wake up at film school. This festival is my first festival, it's my first film, it's my first everything." The film has yet to be picked up by a distributor. The controversial -- and most-talked-about -- film of the festival, Death of a President, which imagines the assassination of George W. Bush in October 2007, won the Prize of the International Critics. Earlier in the week, the film was bought by Newmarket Films, which distributed Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. Receiving the award, British director Gabriel Range said, "I'm thrilled that the film is going to be shown in theaters. ... That's proof that people can see beyond the premise and see that it's a film about this post-9/11 world that we live in."

NETFLIX EXPECTED TO REMAIN CHAMP AMONG 'NET MOVIE SELLERS

The increasing availability of movies for online downloading is not expected to affect business for Netflix, which pioneered online DVD rentals, according to a study by the research firm Cowen and Co. Indeed, the study predicted that Netflix would eventually lead the field with a subscription model for "rental" downloads, once such a model is technologically viable.

VARDALOS LANDS BIG, FAT DEAL FOR ACROPOLIS SHOOTING

For the first time in 2,500 years, the Acropolis in Greece will become the setting for a movie. The country's archaeological council reportedly has given the go-ahead to the Tom Hanks-produced My Life in Ruins starring Nia Vardalos. According to Britain's Guardian newspaper, Vardalos herself lobbied Greek officials to permit production of the comedy, arguing that it would increase tourism and that the ancient monuent would be treated with respect. The Guardian observed that the decision was regarded as "startling" since her hit film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, created controversy among Greeks over the way "their ethnic cousins in the U.S. were portrayed."

ITALIAN TENANTS BLOCK LOCATION PRODUCTION OF KIDMAN FILM

Tenants of an apartment in Rome have held up production of a new movie after learning that it stars Nicole Kidman. According to the Rome newspaper Corriere della Sera, the tenants had originally agreed to accept $8,000 from the producers but changed their minds when Kidman arrived. "If it's her, they're going to have to pay us more," one of the tenants told the newspaper. As Kidman holed up in her trailer, the producers renegotiated their deal with the tenants, who finally agreed on a payment of $32,000, according to the report.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.