HALLOWEEN SCARES UP RECORD

There was more treat than trick about the decision to screen Rob Zombie's remake (the studio called it a "re-imagining") of Halloween over the Labor Day holiday. By Sunday, the film had already grossed more than any other film ever released over the holiday -- $26.5 million. The previous record was set two years ago when Transporter 2 opened with $16.5 million. (Labor Day is typically the slowest holiday period of the year at the box office, as young moviegoers are preparing to head back to school.) The film also gave a boost to the horror genre, which had come upon hard times this year. As MGM distribution chief Clark Woods observed in an interview with the Los Angeles Times: "Only a couple weeks ago, people were talking about the death of the horror movie. ... The genre sure wasn't dead this weekend." Coming in second was Sony's Superbad, which had reigned as the top box-office attraction during the previous two weeks. It grossed $12.2 million, slightly more than the No. 3 film, Universal's Balls of Fury, which debuted with $11.5 million. The rest of the box office looked as frightful as No. 1, with most other films drawing a piddling amount and pulling the average down below what it was a year ago. Nevertheless, the weekend will cap an extraordinary summer for the box office, which is expected to finish with a total haul of about $4.15 billion (first weekend of May through Labor Day).

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates:

1. Halloween, $26.5 million; 2. Superbad, $12.2 million; 3. Balls of Fury, $11.5 million; 4. The Bourne Ultimatum 10.1 million; 5. Mr. Bean's Holiday, $5.9 million; 6. Rush Hour 3, $5.3 million; 7. The Nanny Diaries, $5.1 million; 8. Death Sentence, $4.1 million; 9. Stardust, $3 million; 10. War, $2.3 million.

MOVIE AD WILL SMELL LIKE CAKE

A "scratch and sniff" ad for the upcoming movie Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium that will appear in next Sunday's Los Angeles Times will feature the aroma of frosted cake embedded into ink used in the ad, the New York Times reported today (Monday). Fox Walden, which produced the movie, says it spent $110,000 for the ad, about double what an ordinary full-page ad in the Times would cost. "This was interesting because it ties in so perfectly with what the movie is about, a toy store where toys come alive," Fox Walden marketing chief Jeffrey Godsick told the Times. "It will increase the time people spend with the ad and the pass-around factor."

DE PALMA'S FILM IGNITES PRAISE, COMDEMNATION

Director Brian De Palma's latest film, based on the alleged rape and murder of an Iraqi teenager by U.S. troops and the slaughter of her family, has received widespread admiration from critics attending the Venice Film Festival. In Redacted, writes Ray Bennett in The Hollywood Reporter, "De Palma uses all his considerable talent to make clear what has happened to these men." (In the film De Palma imagines one of them captured by vicious jihadists who behead him on a video that is posted on the Internet.) David Gritten in the London Daily Telegraph comments: "The combination of De Palma's visceral style and the horrifying subject matter left me reeling." But Derek Elley in Daily Variety remarks that "the bullet veers far off the mark" in the film and that it "can't make up its mind about how to package its anger in an alternative cinematic form." In an interview with Time magazine, De Palma said that the word "redacted" refers to the military's term for censoring servicemen's letters and other comments on the war, and that his film is intended to present images of it that the public has never been permitted to see. "If we get these pictures and stories in front of a mass audience, maybe it will do something," he told the magazine. But Yael Lavie, a senior producer for Sky News, commented that the events on which the film was based represented "an isolated incident. Redacted will give the enemy another impression." And former Hollywood agent Pat Dollard, who made the patriotic documentary Young Americans about U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq, called the film part of "a campaign to smear U.S. troops in Iraq" and an effort to make "an anti-war propaganda movie fellow liberals will love all the way to Oscar."

SPIKE LEE NAMED "HONORARY JUDGE" FOR ONLINE INDIE FILM FEST

Spike Lee has been named an "honorary judge" of the Babelgum Online Film Festival, which seeks to recognize outstanding international filmmakers whose work appears on the Internet. In an announcement Saturday at the Venice Film Festival, Babelgum CEO Valerio Zingarelli said that the jury will be composed of "industry experts drawn from around the world" and that the general public will also have the opportunity to vote for finalists. It was not clear what role an honorary judge will have in the selection process, but Lee was quoted in Babelgum's announcement as applauding the Babelgum festival for showcasing the work of independent filmmakers, and adding that it "combines the value of a film festival with the openness of the Internet for those seeking to advance their careers." The festival, which is open to films screened at more traditional festivals from January 2007 to February 2008, will be showed on www.babelgum.com beginning February 15. Winners will be announced in April.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.