TIE PREDICTED FOR BOX OFFICE -- OR IS IT THAI?

This weekend marks the official start of the fall box-office season, and it could hardly be less auspicious. The only film to open wide is Lionsgate's Bangkok Dangerous, starring Nicolas Cage, which was not screened for critics. The studio itself, apparently, does not have high expectations for it and reportedly has cut its marketing budget for it. Box-office forecasters are predicting that it will take in about $10 million in its debut, about what they're forecasting for the fourth week of Tropic Thunder, which has held the top-spot since its debut. The weekend after Labor Day is considered one of the slowest weekends of the year by studio executives -- who plan accordingly. Opening in limited release (96 theaters) this weekend is the movie Everybody Wants to Be Italian, which reviewers promptly covered in cement and drowned. Jeannette Catsoulis writes in the New York Times: "Assuming the title was ever correct, it won't be by the time you exit the theater."

DARK KNIGHT SETS ANOTHER RECORD

Since its release in July, the IMAX version of Warner Bros.' The Dark Knight has taken in $55 million, making it the most successful film ever released in the format. The film is being shown in 139 theaters worldwide. By contrast, the previous IMAX champ, The Polar Express has taken in $45 million over several holiday-season releases.

HIGH-DEF ITUNES MOVIES?

Apple is expected to announce on Tuesday that its next version of its iTunes software will allow users to download movies and television shows in high definition, several websites disclosed Thursday, citing a leak of Apple's upgrade notes. Meanwhile, on Thursday, Amazon announced the launch of Amazon Video on Demand that makes available the company's catalog of 40,000 movies and TV shows for "rent" (i.e., via streaming) on PCs, Macs and other settop boxes like the Sony Bravia TV sets and Apple TV. Movies will cost $2.99 or $3.99; TV shows, $1.99. They can be viewed only during a 24 hour-period after being purchased.

WHAT'S HOLDING UP DREAMWORKS' DEAL WITH INDIA'S RELIANCE?

Nearly three months after it was announced, the $500-million deal between India's Reliance and DreamWorks has still not materialized. "Insiders insist the basic deal remains intact," Daily Variety observed today (Friday), "but the devil is in the details. Especially the banking details." On Monday, Business Week reported that Steven Spielberg was currently meeting with Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance, to finalize the deal and that it could be announced this week, but the week has passed without an announcement. At the time it was originally disclosed, some analysts speculated that it may have been a negotiating ploy to be used by Spielberg and partner David Geffen as leverage in securing a more favorable extension of DreamWorks' current deal with Paramount.

DE NIRO LEAVES SAND TRAP AND QUITS MOVIE

Just days after he arrived in Massachusetts to begin filming scenes for Edge of Darkness, Robert De Niro has quit the film. "Sometimes things don't work out; it's called creative differences," a spokesman for the actor told Daily Variety. Earlier this week the Boston Herald reported that De Niro had been spotted filming scenes at the 15th hole of the Gannon Golf Club while director Martin Campbell (Casino Royale) attempted to set up a shot that would show the actor, a sand trap and the Boston skyline in the shot. De Niro was to have costarred in the movie with Mel Gibson, who has not appeared in a movie in six years.

SAG'S POSTCARD POLL -- NOT SO SECRET?

The postcard poll that the Screen Actors Guild has undertaken among its members over the proposed deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Dealers contains barcodes that could reveal the identity of each member and how they voted, according to entertainment labor attorney Jonathan Handel. In a commentary posted on the Huffington Report, Handel wrote that if such is the case, "that's not a confidential vote, despite language on the postcard that claims this to be the case. And the lack of confidentiality will no doubt leave some Guild members uneasy about voting - particularly in light of the highly partisan nature of the elections. Considering that Membership First controls the union, the dissenters - those who believe it's time to get a deal done - may be hesitant to cast votes. That's plain wrong: No member should have to fear his or her own union. The integrity of voting -- even if only advisory voting -- should be maintained." SAG has not commented on the matter.

Brian B.