UK audiences flocked to safe reliability and flirted with controversy amongst this week's openers as Catch Me If You Can landed the top spot and Irreversible played a solid limited launch.
Steven Spielberg's latest, which received positive reviews in the territory and stars box office favourites Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks, took $6.1m (£3.7m) - including $736,331 of previews - for first place
Gaspar Noe's Irreversible has filled a lot of column inches after being passed uncut by the BBFC and courting controversy ever since its debut at Cannes in May 2002, and turned in a respectable $53,444 (£32,494) from its 15 location launch. It landed in 17th place.
Providing distributor Metro Tartan with a $3,563 per site average the film, which stars real-life husband and wife Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci, saw similar results to last year's Baise-Moi (another controversial French title, released by Feature Film Co) which recorded $26,942 (£16,381) at six sites for an average of $4,490.
Metro Tartan also handled Swedish re-release Persona this weekend which took $13,947 (£8,480) from just two sites. The Ingmar Bergman classic, which scored the second best average of any film on release after Catch Me If You Can, is screening in an extended run as part of the Bergman season at the National Film Theatre (NFT) which finishes on Feb 28. Persona can be seen at the NFT until Feb 13.
The only other opener landing a top 15 position was 20th Century Fox's 11th placed The Banger Sisters. The comedy, which stars Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon, managed just $331,794 (£201,731) at 181 sites for a poor average of $1,833.
Two-week leader 8 Mile bowed to UIP stablemate Catch Me If You Can and dropped to second this week, taking $2.3m (£1.4m) from 406 sites. It has a cumulative total of $18.1m (£11m) after 17 days on release.
BVI's musical Chicago dropped 35% in its sixth week to claim third place with $2.1m (£1.25m). Playing at 319 sites it scored an average of $6,445 and has a total gross of $13.1m (£8m) to date.
Entertainment took positions three to six with its awards-lauded triumvirate The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers ($1.75m), Gangs Of New York ($1.1m) and About Schmidt ($1m). About Schmidt was the strongest performer of last week's holdovers, dropping just 19% from its launch weekend. Playing 221 sites the comedic drama scored an average of $4,541 this weekend and has a 10-day tally of $3m (£1.8m).