BOX OFFICE: THE WINNER TANKS

Although it opened in first-place at the box-office, the Nicolas Cage thriller Bangkok Dangerous was considered an unmitigated flop this weekend as it drew just $7.8 million -- a pyrrhic victory if there ever was one for producers Lionsgate. Nevertheless, Lionsgate's distribution chief Steve Rothenberg insisted that the studio would make a small profit from the film and suggested that things could have been worse. "We lucked out," he told the Associated Press. "No one was [opening] against it." The overall box office looked equally dismal as it wound up with what is likely to be the smallest number of tickets sold in at least five years and just $51.6 million in the till. Media by Numbers chief Paul Dergarabedian blamed the decline on the conventions, the weather and the beginning of the fall TV season. "This was not a pretty weekend at the box office," he said. Coming in second was the fourth weekend of Paramount/DreamWorks' Tropic Thunder with about $7.5 million.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers:

1. Bangkok Dangerous, $7.8 million; 2. Tropic Thunder, $7.5 million; 3. The House Bunny, $5.9 million; 4. The Dark Knight, $5.7 million; 5. Traitor, $4.7 million; 6. Babylon A.D., $4 million; 7. Death Race, $3.6 million; 8. Disaster Movie, $3.3 million; 9. Mamma Mia, $2.7 million; 10. Pineapple Express, $2.4 million.

MOVIE REVIEWS: BANGKOK DANGEROUS

Apparently Lionsgate felt it was too dangerous to show Bangkok Dangerous to critics before it was released. They were right. Critics showed up over the weekend to see for themselves how bad the film was and without exception gave the film a good banging. "The film is simply dreadful to look at," concludes Nathan Lee in the New York Times. "As a cinematic experience, it's like being locked in a coffin for an hour and a half," comments David Hiltbrand in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Michael Ordoña calls it "a standard tired-warrior-finds-meaning-of-life, wants-out-of-the-killing-biz yarn." Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe describes it as "dismayingly comatose, a cynical exercise whose star can't even be roused to action."

TOMMY LEE JONES SUES PARAMOUNT

Tommy Lee Jones has become the latest film personality to sue a film studio alleging that he was the victim of studio accounting practices aimed at ensuring that "back end" participants receive little or no payment. In his lawsuit Jones claims that he agreed to costar in Paramount's No Country for Old Men for low pay but "significant box-office bonuses" if the movie became a hit. Not only did it become a hit -- it earned $160 million worldwide -- but it received the Oscar for best film of 2007. Jones is seeking $10 million.

MICKEY ROURKE MAKES COMBACK AT VENICE

Seemingly representing yet another case of life imitating art, Darren Aronofsky's drama The Wrestler, featuring Mickey Rourke as a washed-up professional wrestler trying for a comeback, won the top Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival over the weekend. Critics were saying the Rourke himself is likely to see his career take off again after giving a performance likely to earn him an Oscar nomination. Accepting the award, Aronofsky said, "We need to thank Mickey Rourke for opening up his heart and soul for the camera and reminding the world what a great talent he is." A festival rule prevents the actors in films that receive the Golden Lion from winning the best actor award. It went to Silvio Orlando for the Italian film Il Papa di Giovanna. The actress award went to France's Dominique Blanc for L'Autre. The Silver Lion for best director was won by Alexei Geran Jr. for the Russian film Paper Soldier.

SILENT SCREEN STAR ANITA PAGE DEAD AT 98

Anita Page, who costarred in the first sound film ever to win an Oscar, The Broadway Melody in 1929, died in her sleep Saturday in Los Angeles at age 98. The Associated Press observed Sunday that the film is also "arguably" the first film musical in Hollywood history.

Brian B.