MANY THEATERS NEAR EMPTY OVER LABOR DAY

The Labor Day holiday appeared even more dismal than usual this weekend as the top ten films together earned just $95 million over the four-day period, according to studio estimates. Warner Bros.' The Final Destination, with $15.45 million, edged out The Weinstein Co.' Inglourious Basterds with $15.03, million -- a result so close that the rankings could very well be reversed when final results are determined later today (Tuesday). Fox's critically drubbed All About Steve came in third with $13.9 million, but its per-theater average was 26 percent higher than Destination and 38 percent ahead of Basterds. Lionsgate's Gamer debuted in fourth place with $9.12 million, followed by the fourth week of Sony's District 9, which took in $9 million, passing the $100-million mark in total sales in the process.

BOX OFFICE -- BIG, BUT NOT AS BIG AS EXPECTED

Overall, the summer box office produced $4.4 billion in ticket sales, up 2 percent over summer 2008, according to industry figures released Monday. Attendance, however, was down 2 percent to 594 million. Analysts attributed the disparity primarily to premium ticket pricing for 3D movies and to a slight increase for general tickets. Today's (Tuesday) New York Times noted that the year started off like gangbusters, with the period before memorial day -- the official start of summer for the movie industry -- showing a 16-percent increase in sales over last year. "But moviegoers, aided by booming social networking services that make word of mouth immediate, started to become more discerning about value: films had to be perceived as worth their leisure-time investment," the Times observed.

PIXAR MAKES QUICK 3D CONVERSION OF TOY STORY MOVIES

Converting the original Pixar Toy Story movies to 3D -- Disney is releasing them as a double feature on October 2 -- was not as difficult as it might appear to outsiders, Disney's chief creative officer, John Lasseter, has told the Wall Street Journal. The original computer images were already in 3D, he observed. "We've always been making 3D films," Lasseter said. "We've just been looking at them with one eye closed." What was difficult, he said, was getting the original computer programs, developed in the '90s, to function under the company's current operating systems. That, he said, "was no small feat." But once the system to reformat the films was in place, he observed, the job of converting them moved along speedily -- in fact, at the same speed it takes to project the films, one 24th of a second per frame. Lasseter said that he expects the Toy Story double feature to play in virtually all the nation's 2,000 3D digital theaters next month.

OLIVER STONE WALKS RED CARPET WITH HUGO CHAVEZ

The ever-controversial director Oliver Stone became a lightning rod for more controversy Monday when he walked the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival accompanied by leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for a screening of Stone's documentary, South of the Border. The film, which screened out of competition, depicts what Stone describes as progressive change in Latin America. Chavez, Stone told the Associated Press prior to the screening, is "the star of the movie." Chavez himself remarked, "Rebirth is happening in Latin America, and Stone went to look for it and he found it. ... With his cameras and his genius, he's captured a good part of that rebirth." He told a reporter for Bloomberg News: "Oliver Stone is a genius of cinema. I think he could smell the air of change in South America." Two years ago, Chavez, who reportedly is an inveterate film buff, ignited new controversy in Hollywood when he agreed to contribute $18 million to the funding of Danny Glover's movie about Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture, which is expected to star Don Cheadle and Angela Bassett. The film is still listed as being in preproduction.