One week before the AcademyAwards, 20th Century Fox, which has one of the lead contenders in MoulinRouge, celebrated a victory at theNorth American box office with Ice Age. The CGI animated comedy about a family of prehistoric beasts trying toreunite a human baby with its mother took a massive estimated $47.9m in threedays, the highest March opening ever and the third biggest animated openingever.

The movie is Fox'sfirst bona fide box office blockbuster for an animated film, after disappointments with Anastasia in 1997 and Titan AE in 2000. In the animated world, its opening has onlybeen bettered by two Disney pictures - Monsters Inc last year ($62.6m) and Toy Story 2 ($57.4m). The previous highest March opening everwas Liar Liar from Universal in1997 with $31.4m.

The success of Ice Age rocketed the box office up 49% from last weekend andup 71% from the same weekend last year. Two other openers also performed well:Sony's mid-budget releasing division Screen Gems had its biggest openingever with Resident Evil, the independentlyproduced horror movie based on a video game, which took an estimated $18.2m,while Warner Bros/Village Roadshow's critically lambasted comedy Showtime which teams Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy grossedan estimated $15.4m.

Resident Evilis directed by Paul Anderson, whose credits include Mortal Kombat and Soldier, and financed by Germany's Constantin Films on whose behalf itwas sold by Intermedia. It stars Milla Jovovich and Michelle Rodriguez. Showtime, directed by Tom Dey (Shanghai Noon), features the stars as real-life cops who become TVstars on a reality show.

Even with the three newopeners, last week's newcomers held up reasonably well. DreamWorks'The Time Machine grossed anestimated $10.9m to bring its ten-day total to $40.1m; Paramount's WeWere Soldiers grossed $8.8m in itsthird weekend to bring its total to $53.6m.

The Oscar films continued torun, with A Beautiful Mind stillin the top ten and a total of $149.2m. New Line's The Lord Of TheRings: The Fellowship Of The Ringdipped out of the ten to number 11, with $2.1m but its staggering total nowstands at $294.3m.

Meanwhile, an Oscar winnerfrom 1982 - ET-The Extra-Terrestrial - opens wide next weekend in a 20th anniversaryre-release from Universal and looks set to attract a new generation ofmoviegoers. The studio held a splashy re-premiere on Saturday at which composerJohn Williams conducted a 100-person orchestra in a simultaneous performance ofthe film's score. Director Steven Spielberg then introduced his grown-up starsHenry Thomas (Elliot), Drew Barrymore (Gertie) and Robert McNaughton (Michael)to the appreciative audience.


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

1 (-) Ice Age (20th Century Fox) Fox International$47.9m --

2 (-) Resident Evil (Screen Gems) Constantin/Intermedia $18.2m -

3 (-) Showtime (Warner Bros) Warner/Village Roadshow $15.4m --

4 (1) The Time Machine (DreamWorks) Warner Bros $10.9m $40.1m

5 (2) We Were Soldiers (Paramount) Icon International $14.5m $53.6m

6 (3) All About TheBenjamins (New Line) New LineInternational $4.9m $17.4m

7 (2) 40 Days And 40Nights (Miramax)Universal/StudioCanal $4.6m TBC

8 (5) John Q (New Line) New Line International $3.7m TBC

9 (8) A Beautiful Mind (Universal) DreamWorks/UIP $3.4m $149.2m

10 (4) Return ToNeverland (Buena Vista) BVI $2.3mTBC