BOX OFFICE: THUNDER AND DRIZZLES

Tropic Thunder may have been the No. 1 film at the box office over the Labor Day weekend but the title hardly described the bleak state of the movie business overall as ticket sales fell a whopping $23.5 percent below the comparable holiday weekend a year ago. Tropic Thunder earned just $14.6 million compared with $30.6 million for Halloween, which led the box office last Labor Day weekend. And while the movie has now taken in $86.9 million, it has a long way to go before it can cover its $90-million cost after payments to theaters and marketing and distribution expenses are taken into account. For the year, total revenue for all films stood at $6.667 billion, down 0.86 percent from last year's $6.725 billion. Attendance was down 4.74 percent, according to figures from Media by Numbers.

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

1. Tropic Thunder, Paramount, $14,602,121, 3 Wks. ($86,935,945); 2. Babylon A.D. Fox, $11,541,571, (New); 3. The Dark Knight, Warner Bros., $11,127,290, 7 Wks. ($504,798,337); 4. The House Bunny, Sony, $10,177,701, 2 Wks. ($29,728,944); 5. Traitor, Overture Films, $10,006,327, 1 Wk. ($11,507,654-- from Wednesday); 6. Death Race, Universal, $7,889,755, 2 Wks. ($24,739,285); 7. Disaster Movie, Lionsgate, $6,945,535, (New); 8. Mamma Mia!, Universal, $5,421,815, 7 Wks. ($132,512,495); 9. Pineapple Express, Sony, $4,448,782, 4 Wks. ($80,832,163); 10. Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Warner Bros., $3,764,410, 3 Wks. ($30,672,432).

INDUSTRY MEMBERS WANT TO KEEP RETIRED COPS

More than 600 location managers, directors, actors and crew members have signed their names to a petition to the Los Angeles City Council protesting against efforts by the Los Angeles Police Department to take over crowd and traffic control at location film productions, the Los Angeles Times reported today (Wednesday). Currently the studios hire retired and off-duty officers for the jobs, but Police Chief William Bratton has expressed concern that they are not accountable to the LAPD. Those signing the petition claim that Bratton's proposal would raise the cost of production at a time when the issue of runaway production is becoming a matter of increasing concern for film and TV producers.

ABU DHABI PLANS TO FUND HOLLYWOOD MOVIES

Abu Dhabi, often called the richest city in the world, plans to use $1 billion of its oil wealth to invest in movie productions over the next five years, Edward Borgerding, CEO of Abu Dhabi Media Company has told the London Financial Times. He said that the company has set up a company called imagenation abu dhabi (like Hollywood's dick clark company, all lowercase) that plans to become one of the world's largest film producers and compete with nearby Dubai to become a media center for the Gulf region. The FT noted, however, that the emirate imposes strict content controls on Hollywood movies shown there. With financing from private equity groups and hedge funds disappearing, Hollywood studios are likely to compete fiercely for imagenation's attention.

AUSTRALIA: CAN IT SINK TITANIC?

The head of 20th Century Fox in Australia is taking aim at his studio's own Titanic, telling the Sydney Morning Herald that he believes the upcoming Australia, starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman and directed by Baz Luhrman will become "the biggest [film] of all time" in that country. Speaking at the Australian International Movie Convention, Jackman called his part in the film "the role of a lifetime."

Brian B.