Although The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers maintained incredible strength in its second week and many other films saw percentage rises from last week, the UK weekend truly belonged to Buena Vista International's Chicago.
The single print release - it is currently screening at the Warner West End before opening nationwide on Jan 17, 2003 - claimed a stunning $129,737 (£80,956) during its opening three-day weekend.
Launching on Boxing Day (Dec 26) the musical extravaganza, which stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere, now has a total gross of $181,708 (£113,386) after just four days at the one location. Chicago ranked eighth in the chart from its lone print. The extraordinary success bodes well for its wide release.
The Two Towers held up triumphantly for Entertainment Film Distributors, dropping off just 4% from its opening weekend and easily taking the lead position in its second week on release.
Peter Jackson's film claimed $13.1m (£8.2m) this weekend to bring its cumulative total to $41.9m (£26.2m) - already making it the seventh highest earning release of 2002 after just 12 days on release.
Warner Bros' Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets and 20th Century Fox's Die Another Day retained second and third positions with $2.5m (£1.56m) and $2.4m (£1.5m) respectively. Both blockbusters improved just over 30% on last week's takings.
Jumping 21% in its second weekend and one position to fourth was BVI's Sweet Home Alabama. The Reese Witherspoon comedy managed $1.47m (£919,875) over the weekend and has a 10-day tally of $3.3m (£2.06m).
Another BVI release, The Santa Clause 2, fell to fifth after dropping 53% from the previous weekend to claim $826,072 (£515,469). The festive Tim Allen comedy may now find itself dropping off quickly as the season, and school holidays, winds down. It has grossed a solid $11.1m (£6.9m) to date and is already ahead of the original, which grossed $10.3m (£6.4m) in 1995.
The only other opener to make the chart this week was Warner Bros' Blood Work. The Clint Eastwood thriller pulled in just $97,841 (£61,053) from 57 sites over its launch weekend for a weak average of $1,717 per location.
Biggest percentage improvement went to BVI's The Quiet American. The drama, which stars Michael Caine, expanded from 87 to 116 sites and rose 68% on last week to take $242,271 (£151,177). Its total to date stands at $2.1m after five weeks on release.