Two new entries performed well at the North American box office but for the second consecutive weekend, the market was down on the same period last year, this time by about 8%.
Warner Bros and Village Roadshow Pictures opened their latest co-production, the Joel Silver-produced actioner Exit Wounds in 2,830 theatres for a powerful $19m gross. Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, it marks the return to the number one slot for Steven Seagal and indeed the biggest opening ever for the star, although much of the film's success has been attributed to his co-star DMX, the rap star who made an impression opposite Jet Li in Silver's Romeo Must Die.
Scoring a higher per-theatre average was Paramount's Enemy At The Gates from Mandalay Pictures which opened with $13.6m at just 1,509 sites for an average of $9,013. Critics were generally unkind to the epic World War II movie directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud but that didn't stop audiences. The film also opened this weekend in the UK, having screened as the opening night film of the Berlin Film Festival last month. It stars British actors Jude Law, Rachel Weisz and Joseph Fiennes.
Also of note this weekend were two films which reached the $100m barrier. At number six was Sony Pictures Classics' Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which continued its astonishing run to take $4.1m and a total of $100.3m. It's the first $100m film for Sony Pictures Classics and the first foreign language film to make that mark.
Also sailing smoothly past that milestone was Traffic from USA Films which took $3.4m in its 12th week on release to bring its total to $102.5m. That's also the first $100m hit for USA.
Opening in limited release were Memento, the first movie from Newmarket Films' distribution operation, which took $0.23m at 11 theatres for a great $20,971 average, and Warner Bros' Australian pick-up The Dish which took $0.072m at six sites for an average of $12,000.
ESTIMATED TOP TEN US MARCH 16-18
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date
1 (-) Exit Wounds (Warner Bros) Warner/Villlage Roadshow $19m --
2 (-) Enemy At The Gates (Paramount) Mandalay/UIP $13.6m --
3 (1) The Mexican (DreamWorks) DreamWorks/Newmarket $8.1m $50.9m
4 (3) See Spot Run (Warner Bros) Warner/Village Roadshow $5.2m $25m
5 (2) 15 Minutes (New Line) New Line International $4.3m $17.9m
6 (6) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony Classics) Good Machine International $4.1m $100.3m
7 (5) Down To Earth (Paramount) UIP $4m $56.8m
8 (4) Hannibal (MGM) Universal/UIP $3.7m $157 m
9 tied (9) Chocolat (Miramax) Miramax International $3.4m $55.8m
9 tied (8) Traffic (USA Films) IEG $3.4m $102.5m