The Golden Compass

, a fantasy tale based on the novel by

Philip Pullman

, opened as the top film at U.S. and Canadian theaters over the weekend, taking in $26.1 million for Time Warner Inc. That's about $9 million less than industry insiders had expected, given that it was the only major film to open.

Still, Compass, from New Line Cinema, dethroned Walt Disney Co.'s Enchanted, which dropped to second.

Compass tells the story of a young girl who uses a unique ability to discern truth in a cosmic battle over free will. It stars Dakota Blue Richards, Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman.

Like Pullman's books, the film has attracted criticism. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights urged a boycott, claiming the movie preaches atheism.

Honors aplenty

Taiwan showered native son

Ang Lee

with honors Saturday as his spy thriller

Lust, Caution

clinched seven prizes, including best film, director and actor at the that nation's Golden Horse awards.

The normally reserved director of Hulk, Brokeback Mountain and other films wrapped up his acceptance speech by chanting "Go Taiwanese film!" The success of Lust, Caution at the awards came after the steamy film, an NC-17 movie in release in America, became a big hit in both Taiwan and China. It's about a World War II-era undercover activist.

A nice Philly gal

Our town's

Patti LaBelle

says she was once offered

Paula Abdul

's job on

American Idol

but turned it down because she didn't want to be mean. "I didn't want to be someone giving bad news by saying 'You didn't make it,' " LaBelle tells Newsweek in the issue that hits stands tomorrow.

Cutting singers was the hardest part of her new NBC reality show, Clash of the Choirs. She does offer encouragement. "I did tell them, 'Because Patti LaBelle said no, it doesn't mean it's the end. Jennifer Hudson was told no, and she has an Oscar.' "

We give it a 100


Seeking Solutions With Suzanne

today and tomorrow will be at the Enterprise Center in West Philadelphia to tape members of

American Bandstand

, doing their thing as post-boomers. (The center is the former Bandstand home.) Among them:

Jerry Blavat


Danny and the Juniors

, dancers

Arlene Sullivan


Frank Spagnola


Kenny Rossi

, and, exec producer

Lew Klein

and lighting director/stage manager

Bill Russell

. The segments will be shown in March.