Buena Vista's comedy BringingDown The House did just that over theweekend, opening number one on a superb $31.7m that marked the third biggestMarch opening of all time behind last year's Ice Age and Blade 2.

It was also Steve Martin's best opening and proved too much forthe rest of the pack, which followed a long way behind withColumbia/Revolution's action-drama Tears Of The Sun opening in second place on $17.2m.

DreamWorks' slice of frat housenostalgia, Old School, slipped one placeto third in its third week on $9.2m for an impressive $50.8m running total,while Oscar favourite Chicagoclimbed one place to fourth in its 11th week on $6.9m for a $114.5m cumulativescore.

Last week's number one, Warner Bros' action-thriller Cradle 2The Grave, fell fiveplaces to sixth on $6.6m for just over $27m. All figures are based on studioestimates and will be confirmed this week.

In Bringing Down The House, Steve Martin plays a lonely guy who unknowingly arrangesan internet date with a boisterous woman (Queen Latifah) who breaks out ofprison to be with him. Chaos ensues.

Despite poor reviews the picture averaged $11,317 from 2,801venues. Eugene Levy and Joan Plowright co-star and Bringing Down The House was directed by Adam Shankman (TheWedding Planner).

Tears Of The Sun sees Bruce Willis' special ops commander grappling with theNigerian jungle while attempting to rescue a strong-willed humanitarian doctor(Monica Bellucci) before the country falls into civil war.

Drawing a 61% male audience, thefilm certainly hit the spot with fans of the Bush administration, but thecritics weren't impressed and the picture received poor reviews.

However it was a strongperformance at the box office, averaging $5,785 from 2,973 sites. Tears OfThe Sun co-stars Cole Hauser (WhiteOleander), with Antoine Fuqua back in thedirector's chair for the first time since his acclaimed Training Day.

The rest of the table was all about peripheral re-jigging. OldSchool averaged $3,398from 2,707 venues, while Chicago continued on its Oscar flight path with a timely climb to fourth,averaging $2,671 from 2,600 sites in its 11th week. Paramount's comedy HowTo Lose A Guy In 10 Daysfell one place to fifth, adding $6.8m for $89.9m in its fifth week

Cradle 2 The Grave plummeted from first to sixth for a $27.03m running total after10 days, while Daredevil continued to somersault toward the $100m mark, falling four toseventh but adding $5.2m for $91.5m running total in its fourth week.

Rounding out the table were: Buena Vista's The Jungle Book 2, which fell two to eighth on $4.2m for$39.5m in its fourth week; Buena Vista's Shanghai Knights, which dropped two to ninth on $2.7m for$54.7m in its fifth week; and Universal's moribund drama The Life Of DavidGale, which fell two totenth on $2.1m for $17.1m in its third week.

Next weekend's wide releases include MGM/UA's action-comedy AgentCody Banks, starringFrankie Muniz and Hilary Duff; Paramount's thriller The Hunted, with Benicio Del Toro and Tommy LeeJones; and New Line's horror remake Willard, starring Crispin Glover and R LeeErmey.

Overall, the weekend's top 12 films grossed $95.4m, a rise ofalmost 15% from the same period last year and 10% higher than last weekend.

Estimated Top Ten US March 7-March 9, 2003

Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend

gross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) Bringing Down The House (Buena Vista) BVI $31.7m -

2 (-) Tears Of The Sun (Columbia/Revolution) Columbia TriStar/Revolution $17.2m -

3 (2) Old School (DreamWorks) UIP $9.2m $50.8m

4 (5) Chicago (Miramax) Miramax International $6.95m $114.54m

5 (4) How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days (Paramount) UIP $6.75m $89.95m

6 (1) Cradle 2 The Grave (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $6.59m $27.03m

7 (3) Daredevil (Fox) Fox International/Regency $5.15m $91.47m

8 (6) The Jungle Book 2 (Buena Vista) BVI $4.2m $39.5m

9 (7) Shanghai Knights (Buena Vista) BVI/Spyglass $2.7m $54.7m

10 (8) TheLife Of David Gale(Universal) Intermedia $2.1m $17.1m