Universal's Julia Roberts-starrer Erin Brockovich grossed $19m in its second weekend on general release to bring its ten-day total to $56.3m. Dropping about 32% from its opening, the Steven Soderbergh-directed film still scored a powerful screen average of $6,675.

But coming close to dethroning the critically acclaimed Roberts hit was Warner Bros' action picture Romeo Must Die, a martial arts actioner set amongst two rival crime rings, one Chinese and one black, in Oakland, California. Romeo Must Die opened last Wednesday to generally good reviews and in five days grossed $25.1m. Its three day gross of $18.6m, however, fell short of Brockovich.

The film was produced by Joel Silver's Silver Pictures which this time last year had similar box office success with its martial arts-inflected The Matrix. Romeo Must Die, directed by former cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak, is a US starring vehicle for Hong Kong action superstar Jet Li - who first appeared to domestic audiences as the villain in Silver's Lethal Weapon 4.

But Li's martial arts appeal is combined with a hip hop soundtrack and black recording stars Aaliyah and DMX in the cast, broadening the appeal of the picture which had the highest screen average in the top ten - $7,035.

The two films dominated the box office, accounting for over half the ticket sales in the top ten. However, if it weren't for the Academy Awards Show broadcast on Sunday night, it is thought both films could have grossed up to $3m apiece more.

Two other newcomers - Fox's teenage weepie Here On Earth starring Leelee Sobieski, Chris Klein and Josh Hartnett and Phoenix Pictures' teen romantic comedy Whatever It Takes for Columbia opened poorly, with $4.6m and $4.3m respectively. Both movies were programmed to appeal to teenage audiences uninterested in the Academy Awards. Whatever It Takes stars Shane West, Christine Lakin, Marka Sokoloff and Jodi Lyn O'Keefe.

Leading Oscar contenders American Beauty and The Cider House Rules again benefited from their Academy Award buzz. Both increased their takes from last weekend, the former up 25% to $3.9m and the latter up 13% to $2.8m. The Cider House Rules will pass the $50m mark next weekend. Another major Oscar contender Boys Don't Cry from Fox Searchlight took a 51% rise to gross $773,000 from 285 screens (a rise of only 25 screens from last weekend). The film has now taken $7.9m; its weekend gross was the biggest it has amassed in one weekend since it opened last October.


Film (Distributor) International distribution Estimated weekend gross Estimated total to date

1(1) Erin Brockovich (Universal) Columbia TriStar $19m $56.3m
2(-) Romeo Must Die (Warner) Warner $18.6m $25.1m
3(3) Final Destination (New Line) New Line International $7.1m $20.3m
4(2) Mission To Mars (Buena Vista) BVI/Spyglass $5.8m $49.3m
5(-) Here On Earth (20th Century Fox) 20th Century Fox $4.6m --
6(-) Whatever It Takes (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $4.3m --
7(7) American Beauty (DreamWorks) UIP $3.9m $108.4m
8 (4) My Dog Skip (Warner) Warner $3.3m $26.2m
9(8) The Cider House Rules (Miramax) Miramax International $2.8m $49.7m
10 (6) The Whole Nine Yards (Warner) Franchise Pictures $2.1m $54.2m