Columbia's Maid In Manhattan went straight to the top over the weekend with a career-high $19m opening for star Jennifer Lopez, according to studio estimates released today (Dec 15). The comedy-romance averaged a decent $6,694 from 2,838 theatres and beat off Paramount's Star Trek: Nemesis by a whisker as the latest serving of intergalactic intrigue for Captain Picard and his doughty crew opened in second place on $18.8m, averaging a solid $6,916 from 2,711 sites. Unsurprisingly, about 60 percent of the audience for Maid In Manhattan was female. Lopez plays a maid in a posh New York hotel who falls for a British politician played by Ralph Fiennes. The picture drew mediocre reviews but studio executives say it has a chance of breaking $90m nonetheless. Wayne Wang directed in what was his first feature since last year's The Centre Of The World. Meanwhile, very much in another galaxy, the Star Trek audience comprised about 64% males and opened to fairly poor reviews. The picture cost just under $60m and is expected to do good business on home video formats, however, as Trekkies the world over cash in. Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner star and Stuart Baird, whose credits include Executive Decision, directed.

Opening in third to strong reviews was Fox's Drumline on $13.1m. The urban drama centres on the cut-throat world of marching band competitions and stars Nick Cannon, Orlando Jones and Zoe Saldana. Costing $20m, it averaged $7,119 from 1,833 sites and around 60% of the audience was black. Drumline marked the feature directorial debut of Charles Stone III. Tying in fourth place were Disney's The Hot Chick and MGM's Die Another Day on $7.5m. In The Hot Chick, Rob Schneider plays a man whose body is possessed by the high school darling. The critics had no time for the comedy, which averaged $3,382 from 2,217 theatres and drew a 70% under-25 crowd. It was directed by Tom Brady in his feature directorial debut. Die Another Day may have lost its top spot but the studio will be consoled by the fact that it is now the highest grossing Bond film ever to be released in the US with a $131.6m running total. The previous incumbent was 1999's The World Is Not Enough, which managed $127m.

Warner Bros' Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets fell from third to sixth with $6.2m for a $222.4m cumulative score. In limited release, New Line's About Schmidt grossed a mighty $283,000 from six theaters in New York, Los Angeles and Omaha, Nebraska, where the film is set and which is also director Alexander Payne's home town. The black comedy-drama was voted best feature and garnered a best actor award for Jack Nicholson (tying with Daniel Day-Lewis for Gangs Of New York) by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association yesterday. The critics loved About Schmidt, in which Nicholson plays a lonely widower who rediscovers life. It goes into wide release on Jan 3.

Overall the top 12 films grossed $90.5m, up 32% on last weekend and up 3% compared to the same period last year. Next weekend's monster release schedule features New Line's The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which opens on Weds Dec 18, stars Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood and was directed by Peter Jackson; Miramax's crime thriller Gangs of New York, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Cameron Diaz; Warner Bros' comedy-romance Two Weeks Notice, starring Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant; Paramount's animated feature The Wild Thornberrys; and Paramount's police thriller Narc, which stars Ray Liotta and Jason Patrick and was directed by Jim Carnahan.

Estimated Top Ten US December 13-15, 2002

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

1 (-) Maid In Manhattan (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $19m --

2 (-) Star Trek: Nemesis (Paramount) UIP $18.8m --

3 (-) Drumline (Fox) Fox International $13.1m --

4 tied (-) The Hot Chick (Buena Vista) BVI $7.5m --

4 tied (1) Die Another Day (MGM) Fox International $7.5m $131.6m

6 (3) Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $6.2m $222.4m

7 (2) Analyze That (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $5.3m $19.6m

8 (6) The Santa Clause 2 (Buena Vista) BVI $4m $125.4m

9 (5) Treasure Planet (Buena Vista) BVI $3m $27.8m

10 (4) Empire (Universal) UIP $2.8m $10.7m