Denzel Washington confirmedhimself as a major box office star over the weekend as his latest drama JohnQ opened at the top of the boxoffice over Presidents Day weekend with a powerful estimated $20.6m gross at2,466 sites. The film, released by New Line Cinema, received lukewarm reviews(at best) but its emotional storyline about a man who holds an emergency roomhostage in order to secure a heart transplant for his son pushed all the rightbuttons as did Washington whose latest Oscar nomination is for lastyear's hit Training Day.

It's also another hitfor New Line which is still counting the grosses for The Lord Of The Rings:The Fellowship Of The Ring. JohnQ, which co-stars Robert Duvall andAnne Heche, is directed by Nick Cassavetes, son of the late John Cassavetes andGena Rowlands, whose credits to date are the smaller independents Unhook TheStars and She's So Lovely.

John Q was the biggest of five wide new openers at theNorth American box office to capitalize on Monday's holiday. Coming insecond with a handsome $14.6m at 2,380 sites was Crossroads, the movie debut of pop queen Britney Spears, whichis directed by Tamra Davis. A road movie about three high school friends ontheir way to Los Angeles to enter a pop contest, the film was financed by Spears'record label Zomba working with international sales outfit SummitEntertainment; domestic rights were then sold to MTV Films and ParamountPictures.

Again reviews were mixedalthough the success of the picture which features Spears' hit song'I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman' contrasts with theignominious flop of Mariah Carey's acting debut Glitter last summer.

Walt Disney FeatureAnimation had a healthy opening at number three with its animated sequel to PeterPan, Return To Neverland, which took $11.8m at 2,605 sites. But MGM'sHart's War directed by Gregory Hoblit and starring Bruce Willis and ColinFarrell was disappointing. The WWII PoW camp drama took $8.3m at 2,459 sites tocome in at number seven, another downer for MGM whose Rollerball tumbled out of the top ten altogether in its secondweekend.

Fox Searchlight's SuperTroopers opened at number eight(tied) with an estimated $6.2m - not bad for an acquisition from lastyear's Sundance Film Festival. Searchlight bought worldwide rights to Jay Chandrasekhar's movie, a police parodystarring Brian Cox, for about $2.5m at 1,778 sites.

Meanwhile Oscar nominatedfilms got a bump from the nomination announcements last week. A BeautifulMind rose 35% from the previousweekend to take $8.5m, The Fellowship Of The Ring rose 38% to take $5m, In The Bedroom went up 50% to take $2.5m and Gosford Park took a leap of 30% to take $2.45m.


Film(Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimatedtotal to date

1 (-) John Q (New Line) New Line International $20.6m --

2 (-) Crossroads (Paramount/MTV Films) Summit Entertainment $14.6m --

3 (-) Return To Neverland (Buena Vista) BVI $11.8m --

4 (1) Collateral Damage (Warner Bros) Warner/Bel-Air $9.1m $28.5m

5 (2) Big Fat Liar (Universal) UIP $8.7m $22.2m

6 (7) A Beautiful Mind (Universal) DreamWorks/UIP $8.5m $124.7m

7 (-) Hart's War (MGM) MGM/20th Century Fox $8.3m -

8 tied (4) Black HawkDown (Columbia) Revolution/ColumbiaTriStar $6.2m $95.4m

8 tied Super Troopers (Fox Searchlight) 20th Century Fox $6.2m--

10 (5) Snow Dogs (Buena Vista) BVI $5.8m $67.2m