i>EVIL RESIDES AT NO. 1

The Resident Evil franchise seemed far from extinct this weekend as Resident Evil: Extinction, starring Milla Jovovich,opened with a better-than-expected $24 million, making it the highest grossing debut of the series, according to studio estimates. It topped 2004's Resident Evil: Apocalypse by some $1 million. The original movie grossed $17.7 million in 2002. In second place, the comedy Good Luck Chuck managed to take in about $14 million in its initial outing, performing about as analysts had expected. But the David Cronenberg-directed Eastern Promises had a less-than-promising opening, with just $5.7 million to place fifth, and the Amanda Bynes' teen comedy Sydney White, a take-off on the Snow White tale, appeared to have been cursed by the evil queen, taking in only $5.3 million to place sixth. Last week's top film, The Brave One, starring Jodie Foster, dropped 45 percent as it racked up $7.4 million in ticket sales, landing in third place. And the previous week's No. 1 film, 3:10 to Yuma was on track to take in $6.4 million, to land in fourth place. For the second week in a row films opening in limited released performed exceptionally well, despite otherwise near-vacant theaters at some multiplexes. The Sean Penn-directed Into the Wild opened in just four theaters with an impressive $206,596, or $51,649 per theater. (By comparison, Resident Evil: Extinction wound up with about $8,500 per theater.) And The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, starring Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck, earned $144,000 in five theaters, or an average of $28,800 per theater. However, Sony Classics' The Jane Austen Book Club attracted few members, taking in only $141,000 in 25 theaters or just $5,600 per theater.

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

1. Resident Evil: Extinction, $24 million; 2. Good Luck Chuck, $14 million; 3. The Brave One, $7.4 million; 4. 3:10 to Yuma, $6.35 million; 5. Eastern Promises, $5.7 million; 6. Sydney White, $5.3 million; 7. Mr. Woodcock, $5 million; 8. Superbad, $3.1 million; 9. The Bourne Ultimatum, $2.8 million; 10. Dragon Wars, $2.5 million.

BOURNE REBORN AT NO. 1 OVERSEAS

Overseas, The Bourne Ultimatum continued to show impressive staying power, taking in $13 million in its fifth week and continuing to lead the pack. The Matt Damon starrer has now earned $144 million overseas, according to Daily Variety. The trade publication predicted that it will wind up making almost as much as the previous two installments of the Bourne franchise made together. In second place, The Simpsons Movie continued its impressive roll, adding another $6 million to its overseas loot, which now stands at $332 million.

STARBUCKS TO START DOWNLOAD SERVICE NEXT WEEK (NO MOVIES)

Starbucks will begin testing its iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store in some 600 of its coffee shops in New York City and Seattle beginning next Monday, the company announced today (Monday). "This is the first step in combining the power of brick and mortar retail and digital music," Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment, said in a statement. Not only will Starbucks customers be able to use their laptops, iPhones or iPod Touch devices to download music without a wi-fi connection charge at the Starbucks stores, but they'll also be able to take advantage of a "Now Playing" feature that will enable them to download the music actually being played in the stores. "This is the only technology of its kind that allows customers to download the music they discover in the environment around them," the statement said. Conspicuously absent in the statement was any mention of movie downloads from iTunes -- presumably because of the length of time such downloads would take over the current T-Mobile system. However, some analysts have forecast that Starbucks may begin installing terabyte-size media servers in their stores with fast connections that could in effect turn each of its coffee shops into digital video stores.

EBERT NAMED AMERICA'S LEADING PUNDIT

A poll conducted by research group E-poll for Forbes magazine of the 60 leading "pundits" in America has ranked Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert at the head of the list. Said Forbes: "While the results show that plenty of cable talking heads like Bill O'Reilly, Lou Dobbs and Geraldo Rivera score highly, the most powerful pundit in America is veteran film critic Roger Ebert, who appeals to 70 percent of the [young-adult] demographic and whose long career makes him well known to well over half the population." Responded Ebert: "Rather astonishing."

Brian B.