Universal Pictures' Dr Seuss adaptation The Cat In The Hat opened at the top of the box office over the weekend with an estimated $40.1m gross, some $15m less than its 2000 predecessor How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

The dismally reviewed fantasy kids movie, produced by Imagine Entertainment and backed by Universal and DreamWorks SKG, stars Mike Myers, Alex Baldwin, Kelly Preston, Sean Hayes, Spencer Breslin and Dakota Fanning. It is the feature directorial debut of Bo Welch, production designer on Men In Black, Batman Returns and Wild Wild West among others.

The movie is another hit for Universal which has already enjoyed $100m pictures this year including Bruce Almighty, Seabiscuit, The Hulk and 2 Fast 2 Furious. Its screen average was $11,570 from 3,464 sites.

Opening in second position with $19.6m was Gothika, the Dark Castle-produced horror thriller starring Halle Berry as a criminal psychologist who wakes up one morning to find herself an inmate in her own hospital. Directed by Frenchman Matthieu Kassovitz, the film co-stars Robert Downey Jr and Penelope Cruz. Its screen average was $8,237 from 2,382 sites.

Last week's biggest pictures, Elfand Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World maintained strong postions in the marketplace. The former took $19.1m in its third weekend for a running total so far of $95.1m for New Line, while the latter slipped just 39% in its second weekend to take $15.2m and a ten day total of $47.3m for Fox.

Another Universal movie, the comedy Love Actually, expanded its screen count in its third weekend on release to take $9.1m and bring its total to $30.8m.

Suffering most severely was Warner's The Matrix Revolutions which fell 59% in its third weekend to take just $6.7m and a three weekend total of $125m, less than half of the gross earned by its predecessor Reloaded.

In the specialised arena, Focus Features' highly anticipated 21 Grams was an impressive opener with $256,434 on just eight screens in New York and Los Angeles, averaging a powerful $32,054 per site.

On Wednesday, Thanksgiving Day weekend begins with a slew of new holiday releases including Columbia/Revolution's western The Missing directed by Ron Howard, Richard Donner's Timeline for Paramount, Disney's theme park ride adaptation The Haunted Mansion with Eddie Murphy and Dimension's raucous Christmas comedy Bad Santa featuring Billy Bob Thornton.

Estimated Top Ten US Nov 21-Nov 23 2003
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) The Cat In The Hat (Universal) DreamWorks/UIP $40.1m --
2 (-) Gothika (Warner Bros) Columbia TriStar $19.6m --
3 (1) Elf (New Line) NLI $19.1m $95.1m
4 (2) Master And Commander (Fox) Fox Int'l $15.2m $47.3m
5 (6) Love Actually (Universal) UIP $9.1m $30.8m
6 (3) The Matrix Revolutions (Warner Bros) Warner Bros Int'l $6.7m $125m
7 (4) Brother Bear (Buena Vista) BVI $5.5m $70.4m8 (5) Looney Tunes: Back In Action (Warner Bros) Warner Bros Int'l $4.1m $14.8m
9 (7) Scary Movie 3 (Dimension) Miramax Int'l $3.3m $106.6m
10 (8) Radio (Columbia) CTFDI/Revolution $2.6m $47.1m