With a whopping estimated $66.8m three-day opening New Line Cinema's Rush Hour 2 leapt into the record books over the weekend, becoming the biggest comedy opening of all time, the biggest New Line opening of all time, the biggest August opening ever and the third best non-holiday opening on record.

The comedy follow-up to Brett Ratner's 1998 smash teaming Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker comes in just behind last weekend's Planet Of The Apes ($68.5m) and May opener The Mummy Returns ($68.1m) as the third biggest three-day opener of the year. It also follows those films as the third biggest non-holiday opening on record. The $66.8m figure doubled the $33m on which Rush Hour opened three years ago.

The opening comes as a relief for New Line which hasn't enjoyed a $100m success since 1999's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. The studio fired 20% of its staff in January this year in the wake of the merger of its parent company Time Warner and AOL and replaced its production chief Mike De Luca with Toby Emmerich. Many of its finished films have been moved to next year so that new marketing president Russell Schwartz could focus on Rush Hour 2 and Christmas opener The Fellowship Of The Ring which is the first in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Amid rumours about the uncertainty of its future within AOL Time Warner, the success of Rush Hour 2 anchors New Line firmly as a powerful autonomous production and distribution operation.

Rush Hour 2 toppled Planet Of The Apes which fell 58% in its second weekend to take $28.5m, although its ten day gross of $124.7m makes it the tenth $100m hit of the year and ensures that it will be among the year's biggest grossers. The other nine movies are Hannibal, Spy Kids, The Mummy Returns, Shrek, Pearl Harbor, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Fast And The Furious, Jurassic Park III and Dr Dolittle 2.

Meanwhile Buena Vista, which has had a relatively disappointing summer with Pearl Harbor and Atlantis: The Lost Empire, scored a major league success with its Garry Marshall family comedy The Princess Diaries which stars Anne Hathaway as a school geek who finds out that she is a princess. The movie took a mighty $23.2m Julie Andrews and Hector Elizondo co-star.

MGM failed to hit gold again after Legally Blonde with its steamy period potboiler Original Sin starring Antonio Banderas and Angelina Jolie. The movie opened poorly with $6.4m in 2,194 sites, a feeble average of $2,917.

Miramax Films, however, enjoyed a stunning screen average of $48,000 - albeit on just two screens - for its presentation of Apocalypse Now Redux, Francis Ford Coppola's 197 minute director's cut which world premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year.

The weekend was up some 39% on the same weekend last year, adding another boost to the summer which has one of the strongest August lineups in years. Next weekend Warner Bros' highly anticipated Osmosis Jones goes up against Universal's R-rated teen movie American Pie 2 while on Aug 17 Paramount debuts the eagerly awaited comedy Rat Race, another potential crowd-pleaser. That's compared to August 2000 which offered nothing but duds - Bless The Child, The Replacements, Autumn In New York et al. After its fair share of troughs, summer 2001 is likely to set an all-time record.

Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date
1 (-) Rush Hour 2 (New Line) New Line International $66.8m
2 (1) Planet Of The Apes (20th Century Fox) Fox International $28.5m $124.7m
3 (-) The Princess Diaries (Buena Vista) BVI $23.3m --
4 (2) Jurassic Park III (Universal) UIP $12.1m $146.8m
5 (3) America's Sweethearts (Columbia) Revolution/Columbia TriStar $8.4m $75.1m
6 (-) Original Sin (MGM) Hyde Park Entertainment/20th Century Fox $6.4m --
7 (4) Legally Blonde (MGM) 20th Century Fox $6.1m $71.6m
8 (5) The Score (Paramount) Mandalay/UIP $5m $57.4m
9 (6) Cats And Dogs (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $2.3m $86.7m
10 (7) Dr Dolittle 2 (20th Century Fox) Fox International $2.1m $105.9m