Ice Age: The Meltdown produced the first sensational box office weekend of the year asit opened to a spectacular estimated $70.5m, while another sequel Sony/MGM's BasicInstinct 2 flopped intenth place on $3.2m.

The animated sequel beat the $46.3m March 2002 launch of IceAge and eclipsed theall-time April opening record of $42.2m set by Sony's Anger Management in 2003.

Italso powered the weekend box office to a $136.5m combined total for the top 12that improved by 40% on the same weekend last year.

And in another notable mark, Ice Age: The Meltdown tied with 2004's The Incredibles for the second biggest animated openingof all time behind Shrek 2, which opened on $108m in 2004.

Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary and Queen Latifah providethe voice talent in the ongoing adventures of a group of prehistoric beasts.Carlos Saldanha directed the picture which averaged $17,785 on 3,964 screens.

Warner Bros' urban rollerskating drama ATL opened in third place on $12.5m andaveraged a strong $7,830 on 1,602 screens. It stars CliffordHarris and Lauren London.

Gold Circle/Universal's tongue-in-cheek horror title Slither, about an alien plague that afflicts asmall town, opened in eighth place on $3.7m.

James Gunn's picture rode into town on a wave of enthusiasticreviews but averaged a poor $1,889 on 1,945 screens. Nathan Fillion andElizabeth Banks star.

Fourteen years after Sharon Stone stunned the world with herpredatory turn in Basic Instinct the actress returned as the murderous writer Catherine Tramell inSony/MGM's sequel.

Alas for Stone, the only thing that was murderous about thissequel were the reviews and box office. Basic Instinct 2 opened on 1,453 screens for a weakaverage of $2,202.

Elsewherelast weekend's champion, Universal's Inside Man, slipped to second place on $15.7m for $52.8m aftertwo weekends.

WarnerBros' V For Vendetta stands at$56.8m after three, and Paramount's Failure To Launch has amassed $73.2m after four.

Next weekend's wide releases are Fox Searchlight's PhatGirlz starring Mo' Nique; The WeinsteinCompany/MGM's Lucky Number Slevin starringJosh Hartnett and Lucy Liu; New Line's Take The Lead starring Antonio Banderas; and Sony/Revolution's TheBenchwarmers, which stars Rob Schneider andJon Heder.

Estimated Top Ten North America Mar 31-Apr 2 2006

Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend

gross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) Ice Age: The Meltdown (Fox) Fox Intl $70.5m -

2 (1) Inside Man (Universal) UIP $15.7m $52.8m

3(-) ATL (Warner Bros) WBPI $12.5m-

4 (4) Failure To Launch (Paramount) UIP $6.6m $73.2m

5 (2) V For Vendetta (Warner Bros) WBPI $6.5m $56.8m

6 (3) Stay Alive (Buena Vista) BVI/Spyglass $4.6m $17.3m

7(6) She's The Man (DreamWorks) Lakeshore International $4.6m $17.3m

8 (-) Slither (Universal) UIP $3.7m -

9 (5) The Shaggy Dog (Buena Vista) BVI $3.5m $53.8m

10 (-) BasicInstinct 2 (Sony/MGM) C2Pictures/Intermedia $3.2m -