FOX GETS RELIGION

In an effort to attract the enormous church-going audience that flooded theaters to see Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, Fox Filmed Entertainment is expected to announce today (Tuesday) that it is creating a new division, FoxFaith, that will produce as many as 12 films a year, half of which will have theatrical releases and the other half going directly to home video. According to today's (Tuesday) Los Angeles Times, the first theatrical release under the new banner will be Love's Abiding Joy, due to open on Oct. 6 at theaters operated by Carmike Cinemas and AMC Theatres. The studio hopes to attract evangelical Christians who have traditionally stayed away from current movie fare, regarding it as offensive and irreligious. Commenting on the studio's plans, the Times observed: "Fox might seem an unlikely studio to pioneer a religious label, given its history as a purveyor of salacious TV programming. Yet people in the Christian community say the company has gained credibility as the voice for conservative America through its Fox News Channel."

BIG "SCREEN" FOR A LITTLE IPOD

Users of an electronic video headset attached to a video iPod will be able to view movies recorded on the iPod as if they were watching them on a 27-inch TV set. MicroOptical said that it plans to begin distributing its myvu Made for iPod video eyewear headset in late fall The $400 device also includes noise-reducing earbuds, a wired remote and a battery pack that will last for six hours.

A SOLUTION FOR THE HIGH-DEFINITION DVD DILEMMA?

In what could serve as a method to surmount consumers' reluctance to purchase high-definition DVD players, three engineers have patented an application for a DVD disc that can hold three different formats -- Sony's Blu-ray, Toshiba's HD DVD, and conventional DVD. According to Home Video Retailing magazine, the Blu-ray data would be embedded 0.1 mm onto the disc; the HD DVD date would lie 0.5 mm below that. The standard DVD data would be recorded on the opposite side of the disc. Two of the engineers who patented the disc format work for Warner Bros., the magazine said. According to numerous recent reports, consumers have been loath to purchase the expensive high-definition DVD players, not knowing which format will prevail.

SONY GANGS UP ON RIVALS

It may only have taken in $14.4 million, but like a football game won by a single field goal, Gridiron Gang became the 10th Sony film of the year to reach No. 1 at the box office on its opening and thereby set a record for the studio. Three other new films tanked, including the much-hyped Brian de Palma drama The Black Dahlia, which grossed only $10 million for Universal. Twentieth Century Fox's animated Everyone's Hero brought in only $6 million, while Paramount's The Last Kiss earned just $4.6 million. Two indie films continued to show staying power, however. The Illusionist, which opened five weeks ago, placed seventh with $3.6 million, while Little Miss Sunshine, which debuted eight weeks ago, collected $3.3 million to place eighth. Meanwhile, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest returned to the top of the overseas box office after dipping to second place last week, ending its nine-week winning streak. The film set a new box-office record as it opened in Italy with $12.8 million. Its worldwide gross now stands at $1.03 billion.

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

1. Gridiron Gang, Sony, $14,414,630, (New); 2. The Black Dahlia, Universal, $10,005,895, (New); 3. Everyone's Hero, Fox, $6,061,762, $6,061,762, (New); 4. The Covenant, Sony, $4,777,554, ($15,791,085), 2 Wks.; 5. The Last Kiss, Paramount, $4,627,989, (New); 6. Invincible, Disney, $4,114,921, ($51,121,579), 4 Wks.; 7. The Illusionist, Yari Film Group, $3,623,084, ($23,126,885), 5 Wks.; 8. Little Miss Sunshine, Fox Searchlight, $3,319,124, ($46,359,579), 8 Wks.; 9. Hollywoodland, Focus Features, $2,722,954, ($10,522,553), 2 Wks.; 10. Crank, Lionsgate, $2,680,225, ($24,393,847), 3 Wks.

NEW YORK TIMES WON'T REVIEW ALL N.Y. FILM FESTIVAL ENTREES

The New York Times has decided that, for the first time, it will not review every film being screened at the New York Film Festival, which opens Sept. 29, Daily Variety reported on its website Monday. The trade publication quoted a spokeswoman for the newspaper as saying that it wants to allow its "critics more flexibility to write about what they believe deserves attention." However, Variety observed, the "decision is likely to make producers of unsold films -- for which the certainty of a Times review at the fest has served as a springboard for other coverage -- a little nervous." However, the policy received the approval of Jeanne Berney of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which presents the festival, who said, "We welcome the opportunity for critics and feature writers to champion films that they like through a comprehensive series of articles vs. two or three paragraphs in a roundup of reviews."

ACTOR MICKEY HARGITAY DIES AT 80

Actor and bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay, who once helped guide the career of his wife, Jayne Mansfield, and whose daughter Mariska won an Emmy this year for her role in Law & Order: SVU, died Thursday in Los Angeles at age 80. Hargitay, a former Mr. Universe, appeared along with other body builders in Mae West's Las Vegas show in the late 1950's. West later had a mural of the men, posing naked, painted on the wall of her Santa Monica home. During a televised interview in front of it in 1962, she approached the mural, slapped the image of Hargitay, and seethed, "He stole my entire act and gave it to 'that woman.'" Hargitay appeared opposite Mansfield in three movies, The Loves of Hercules, Promises! Promises!, and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? The couple divorced in 1964; Mansfield died three years later in a car crash.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.