A LABORIOUS LABOR DAY FOR MOVIES

The summer box office may have roared in like a lion, but it went out whimpering worse than usual. BoxOfficeMojo.com reported that it was the least-attended Labor Day weekend in over a decade. According to initial estimates, The Final Destination squeezed out a win for the second consecutive week with $12.4 million, thanks largely to premium-priced tickets in 3D theaters. The critically derided All About Steve opened in second place with $11.2 million even though it sold more tickets. Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds slipped to third place with $10.8 million, while the sci-fi action flick Gamer, which was not screened for critics, came in at the low end of analysts' forecasts with about $9 million to place fourth. The only other new film, Mike Judge's Extract, tanked with just $4.2 million. Two films reached milestone marks. District 9 passed the $100-million mark and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen passed $400 million.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo:

1. The Final Destination, $12.44 million; 2. All About Steve, $11.20 million; 3. Inglourious Basterds $10.85 million; 4. Gamer, $9 million million; 5. District 9, $7 million; 6. Halloween II, $5.61 million; 7. Julie & Julia, $5.2 million; 8. GI Joe, $5.1 million; 9. The Time Traveler's Wife, $4.2 million; 10. Extract, $4,12 million.

BASTERDS ATOP OVERSEAS BOX OFFICE FOR THIRD WEEK

Overseas, Inglourious Basterds retained the box-office crown for the third straight week, earning $14.3 million in 35 countries, according to studio estimates. Its international total now stands at $83.3 million and, combined with North American results, its worldwide total now exceeds $174 million. The Quentin Tarantino film edged out The Final Destination, which tallied $14 million.

MOVIE REVIEWS: GAMER

Gamer was not screened for critics before it was released on Friday, and apparently few of them were willing to interrupt their Labor Day holiday to see it over the weekend, it appears. Their reviews were predictable. Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News suggested that what was needed for this movie about a video game in which real humans can be controlled is "a fast-forward button." Peter Hartlaub in the San Francisco Chronicle suggested that the film "uses too many quick-cut edits during the fight sequences but piles on enough action that you kind of get used to it." He remarked that the movie "is almost instantly forgettable, but still kind of fun." However, Glenn Whipp in the Los Angeles Times concluded: "Rarely have the words 'game over' come as such sweet relief."

LASSETER: NEW OSCAR FORMAT MAY PUT ANIMATION IN SPOTLIGHT

John Lasseter, who at Disney holds the unique position of chief creative officer, has suggested that the decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to expand the best picture category to ten films will likely shine the light on animated films -- which have generally been relegated to a niche role. (The best animated feature category did not even exist before 2001.) Speaking at the Venice Film Festival, where he was honored with a Golden Lion lifetime career award (four Pixar directors also received miniature versions of the trophy), Lasseter said that he was "blown away" when he was informed of the award. It was presented to him by George Lucas, who noted that he started Pixar as "a little back-room operation in 1979." He sold it to Steve Jobs in 1986.

SMALL VIDEO STORES PROTEST AGAINST REDBOX

First it was Blockbuster and the other giant video chains that they had to deal with; now the Video Buyers Group, which represents independent video rental stores, has suggested that $1-a-night kiosks could do them in. VBG announced on Friday that it will ask the public to shun the kiosks and ask the studios to do the same. In an interview with Video Business magazine, VBG President Ted Engen warned that "Dollar rental kiosks are to the film industry as the Internet was to the music industry." The trade publication indicated that studios are sympathetic. It quoted one studio source as saying, "Redbox's short-term gains will shortly wreak havoc on producers, writers, laborers and ultimately consumers who love a broad selection of movies." However, some consumer groups have dismissed the complaints, insisting that the studios merely want to continue to enjoy "windfall profits" from DVD sales and rentals as they had done before and that they should adjust to new conditions. A banner on Redbox's website reads, "Don't let a few movie studios prevent you from seeing the latest DVDs for an affordable price." Besides, Redbox founder Mitch Lowe told the New York Times: "If you make renting affordable and fun, people are going to watch a whole lot more movies than they did before."