Buena Vista's Bringing Down The House kept audiences chuckling over the weekend as it held on to top spot with an estimated $22.4m for a fine 10-day $61.6m running total.
As the nation prepares for war with Iraq, movie-goers were clearly in the mood for some light relief and the picture, which stars Steve Martin and Queen Latifah, is on course for $100m.
Opening in second place on $15m was the MGM comedy Agent Cody Banks. Frankie Muniz stars as an undercover teenage CIA spy sent to prep school on a top-secret mission to save the world. The picture drew mediocre reviews and averaged $4,452 in 3,369 theatres.
Hilary Duff and Angie Harmon co-star and Agent Cody Banks was directed by Harald Zwart. MGM said early exit polls revealed roughly 70% of the audience was aged 12 and under.
Opening in third with $13.5m was Paramount's chase movie, The Hunted. Tommy Lee Jones, in a what is becoming familiar role these days, plays a tracker on the trail of an assassin (Benicio Del Toro). The picture received poor reviews and averaged $5,366 at 2,516 sites. Connie Nielsen and Leslie Stefanson co-star and William Friedkin directed in his first project since Rules Of Engagement in 2000.
The only other new title in the top 10 was Willard, New Line's remake of Daniel Mann's 1971 horror story, which debuted in eighth place with a little over $4m. Crispin Glover is the eponymous Willard, an implosive character who goes berserk when one of his beloved rats is killed. The picture had decent reviews and averaged $2,286 in 1,761 theatres.
Elsewhere, Miramax's Chicago kept up a robust performance, despite dropping one place to fifth. Rob Marshall's Broadway adaptation grossed $7.7m for a superb $125.5m gross in its 12th week on release. With 13 Academy Awards nominations, it is expected to dominate next weekend's Oscars.
Two other pictures edged their way towards $100m this week. Paramount's How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days brought its six-week cumulative score to $93.9m after dropping two to fifth place with a weekend gross of $4.8m, while Fox's Daredevil fell two to ninth with $3m for a $96.1m running total in its fifth week.
On limited release, Fox Searchlight's comedy Bend It Like Beckham opened with $151,717 from six sites for a kicking $25,286 average. The picture is set to expand nationwide by mid-April and was directed by Gurindher Chadha (What's Cooking'). The picture was a hit in the UK last year, where it grossed a little over $11m.
Next weekend's releases include: Warner Bros horror-thriller Dreamcatcher, starring Morgan Freeman and Thomas Jane; Buena Vista's Piglet's Big Movie; and Miramax's A View From The Top, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Christina Applegate.
Estimated Top Ten US March 14-March 16, 2003
Film (Distributor)/Int'l dist/Estimated weekend gross/Est total to date
1 (1) Bringing Down The House (Buena Vista) BVI $22.4m $61.6m
2 (-) Agent Cody Banks (MGM) $15m -
3 (-) The Hunted (Paramount) UIP $13.5m -
4 (2) Tears Of The Sun (Columbia/Revolution) Columbia TriStar $8.8m $30.8m
5 (4) Chicago (Miramax) Miramax International $7.7m $125.5m
6 (3) Old School (DreamWorks) UIP $6.8m $60.9m
7 (5) How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days (Paramount) UIP $4.8m $93.9m
8 (-) Willard (New Line) NLI $4m -
9 (7) Daredevil (Fox) Fox International/Regency $3m $96.1m
10 (6) Cradle 2 The Grave (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $3m $31.7m