i>BRAVE ONE BRAVES LACKLUSTER BOX OFFICE

Demonstrating that even a winner can be a loser, the Jodie Foster starrer The Brave One opened at the top of the box office over the weekend with just $13.5 million. The vigilante flick, which reportedly cost $50 million to make and another $30 million to market and distribute, performed well below Foster's other recent releases, including Flightplan, which opened in 2005 with $25 million and Panic Room, which earned $30 million in its bow in 2002. But if The Brave One was regarded as a disappointment, the Billy Bob Thornton comedy Mr. Woodcock was deemed an utter disaster, taking in just $8.8 million and winding up in third place slightly behind last week's winner, 3:10 to Yuma, which took in $8.9 million. The fifth week of Superbad took the fourth spot with $5.1 million, bringing its gross to $111.2 million. Rounding out the top five, the Korean fantasy hit Dragon Wars proved to be a dud with an opening take of just $5 million.

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

1. The Brave One, Warner Bros., $13,471,488, (New); 2. 3:10 to Yuma, Lions Gate, $8,930,889, 2 Wks. ($28,330,228); 3. Mr. Woodcock, New Line, $8,761,369, (New); 4. Superbad,Sony, $5,105,184, 5 Wks. ($111,241,228); 5. Dragon Wars, Freestyle Releasing, $5,041,239, (New); 6. Halloween, MGM, $4,867,522, 3 Wks. ($51,120,587); 7. The Bourne Ultimatum, Universal, $4,125,380, 7 Wks. ($216,167,260); 8. Balls of Fury, Focus Features, $3,324,001, 3 Wks. ($28,859,451); 9. Rush Hour 3, New Line, $3,303,341, 6 Wks. ($133,158,932); 10. Mr. Bean's Holiday, Universal, $2,726,475, 4 Wks. ($28,545,470).

GERMAN DEFENSE MINISTRY DOES ABOUT-FACE OVER CRUISE

The German government has done an apparent about-face and will allow Tom Cruise to film key scenes of his movie Valkyrie at a location that had previously been placed off-limits to him. A spokesman for the German Defense Ministry said Monday that after evaluating the script, officials had decided that it shed a light on the foundations of German democracy. (The film concerns the so-called generals' plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in World War II; Cruise plays Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, a German officer regarded as the ringleader of the plot.) When filming began last month, German officials granted only limited cooperation due to Cruise's association with Scientology, which is officially regarded as a dangerous cult in Germany. However, on Monday officials said they were satisfied that the story of the plot and the previously barred filming site -- where von Stauffenberg was executed -- would receive respectful treatment. Anti-Scientology groups voiced their anger over the decision. In an interview with Time magazine, Ursula Caberta, a government worker who monitors Scientology in Germany, said that the decision is like "handing a trophy to Scientology. ... Tom Cruise is not just Tom Cruise, but a figurehead of an anti-constitutional organization, and he should be treated that way."

TWO HI-DEF FORMATS TO REMAIN AWHILE, SAYS REPORT

Despite numerous reports that consumers are not likely to buy high-definition video players and recorders until the industry decides on a single format -- either HD DVD or Blu-ray, a study released Monday indicates that both formats are likely to continue battling one another for the foreseeable future. The study, headed by Screen Digest Video Analyst Richard Cooper, concluded: "Both formats will be seeking to secure consumer buy-in to their proposition during the critical holiday season but with so much at stake on both sides we think it is highly unlikely that one format will emerge as the 'winner.'" Moreover, Cooper predicted that when studios currently committed to one format over another realize that sales of high-definition players are strong for each, "most will decide to offer their titles on both HD DVD and Blu-ray in order to maximize their returns."

CONTROVERSIAL ANIMATED FILM TO BE FRANCE'S OSCAR ENTRY

The award-winning animated film Persepolis, which tells the story of an Iranian girl growing up at the time of the Islamic revolution, has been selected as France's entry in the 2008 Oscars for best foreign-language film. The film took the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year and has been selected to close the New York Film Festival next month. Nevertheless, it has been denounced by Iranian officials, who demanded that it be yanked from the state-sponsored Bangkok International Film Festival, where it had been selected as the opening film. The decision of the BIFF to agree to the Iranian demands raised questions about the artistic integrity of film festivals that depend on government -- and hence, political -- funding.

CABLE COMPANIES OFFERING VOD ON DAY OF DVD RELEASE

Raising new concerns for brick-and-mortar video stores and online video renters alike, Comcast and Time Warner cable, the country's two largest cable systems, have begun testing video-on-demand (VOD) services in three markets where they allow customers to order movies from their cable companies on the same day they are released on DVD, according to Home Media magazine. The three markets, Denver, Pittsburgh and Atlanta, have seen as much as a five-fold increase in VOD sales with virtually no impact on sales at stores, according to Time Warner Cable COO Landel Hobbs, who addressed a Merrill Lynch Media & Entertainment conference in New York Monday. Hobbs did not indicate how video rental outfits might have been affected by the day-and-date test.

Brian B.