i>HALLOWEEN -- A BOX-OFFICE TREAT

The 2007 summer movie season went out with a bang over the Labor Day weekend as the box office posted $119.6 million in ticket sales -- well above the previous record of $106.1 million for the holiday set in 2003, according to box-office trackers Media by Numbers. Halloween, the top film over the four-day period, also set a record for the holiday as it raked in an estimated $31 million, nearly twice the earnings of the No. 2 film, Superbad (which had held the top spot over the previous two weekends). Balls of Fury, the ping-pong/martial arts comedy, debuted in third place with $13.8 million, slightly ahead of The Bourne Ultimatum, which took in $13.2 million, bringing its gross into blockbuster territory with $202.2 billion over five weeks. Rush Hour 3 rounded out the top five with $10.4 million in its fourth week. All other films took in less than $10 million.

The top ten films for the four-day Labor Day weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. Halloween, $31 million; 2. Superbad, $15.6 million; 3. Balls of Fury, $13.8 million; 4. Bourne Ultimatum, $13.2 million; 5. Rush Hour 3, $10.4 million; 6. Mr. Bean's Holiday, $8.1 million; 7. The Nanny Diaries, $6.4 million; 8. Death Sentence, $5.2 million; 9. War, $5.1 million; 10. Stardust, $3.9 million.

PIXAR SMELLS A RAT -- IN DISNEY'S MARKETING DEPARTMENT

Although Disney/Pixar's Ratatouille crossed the $200-million mark at the domestic box office over the weekend, some Pixar executives are blaming Disney's marketing staff for failing to create a promotional campaign for the movie that would have pushed it into the top-five for the year, as Toy Story was in 1995 (No. 1); A Bug's Life was in 1998 (No. 4); Toy Story 2 was in 1999 (No. 3); Monsters, Inc. was in 2001 (No. 4); Finding Nemo was in 2003 (No. 2); The Incredibles was in 2004 (No. 5); and Cars was in 2006 (No. 3). According to Disney watcher Jim Hill, Ratatouille currently ranks eighth at the domestic box office and might wind up out of the top ten entirely by the end of the year. As a result, he says, Pixar execs are now overseeing the marketing campaign for the upcoming WALL-E, something that has apparently infuriated the Disney marketing staff. Hill quotes one unnamed studio insider as saying that Ratatouille "was a very difficult picture to sell during an incredibly competitive summer. ... They're now being complete bastards about the WALL-E trailer, insisting that only they know the proper way to promote their next picture. ... But that's okay. Let them call the shots on WALL-E's marketing campaign. Next year, they'll be the ones who'll be taking the fall when that Andrew Stanton film doesn't measure up to expectations."

SALES OF MOVIE DOWNLOADS TO SOAR, SAYS STUDY

By 2011 movie downloads will generate $720 million in the U.S. for studios and producers, a figure that amounts to 18 percent of their entire domestic gross over the past season, according to a study by Screen Digest. Moreover, that revenue will flow directly to the content owners -- no movie theaters to share it with, no costs for prints, shipping and local advertising. The study also indicated that an additional $572 million will be generated by downloads in Western Europe. The potential for far greater revenue extends beyond 2011, the study concluded, when consumers are provided with simple devices to watch downloaded movies on large screen TVs and home entertainment systems. Nevertheless, the study noted, the studios will have to perform "a delicate balancing act" in order the maintain their relationships with DVD sellers "whilst meeting growing consumer demand for immediate online downloads." (Separately, today's Wall Street Journal, citing no source, said that the total market for online video is expected to reach $7 billion by 2010.)

FINLAND'S MOVIEMAKERS HALT PRODUCTION

Thirty of Finland's most prominent film producers have effectively agreed to shut down production throughout the country in an effort to pressure the country's government to provide additional funding, according to Helsingin Danomat. The Helsinki newspaper said that Stefan Wallin, Finland's minister of culture and sport, responded by saying that funding is not going to be allocated based on pressure. The producers accused the minister of reneging on a promise made last June that an additional $15 million would be appropriated for filmmakers over the next four years. In his statement today (Tuesday), Wallin said that he would "review in a positive spirit" the possibility of raising funding.

Cinemark Movie Club
Brian B.