New Line Cinema's Monster-in-Law made a strong debutin North America this weekend, grossing an estimated $24m and beatingUniversal's rival family comedy Kicking & Screaming, which took asolid $20.9m, to the top chart spot.

Action thriller Unleashed, from Focus Features' Roguelabel, opened well with an estimated $10.6m and took third place.

The three new releases were not strong enough, however, todrag the US market out of its doldrums: overall box office for the top tenfilms was nearly 9% down on the corresponding weekend last year and last week'snumber one, Fox's Kingdom of Heaven, fell off by around 51% in itssecond weekend.

Monster-in-Law, which features Jennifer Lopez and thebig screen comeback of Jane Fonda, was poorly reviewed but worked better thanexpected, its story of a tussle over the perfect man apparently appealing tofans of both stars. Directed by Robert Luketic, the comedy averaged a healthy$7,016 from 3,424 theatres.

Kicking & Screaming competed with hot star WillFerrell playing a kids' soccer coach driven to distraction by his aggressivedad, played by Robert Duvall. Directed by Jesse Dylan, produced by Universalwith Mosaic Media Group and the recipient of mixed reviews, the film averaged$6,035 from 3,455 screens.

Directed by Louis Leterrier and written and produced by LucBesson, the mostly well-reviewed Unleashed was another good opener formartial arts star Jet Li, who is joined in the cast by Morgan Freeman and BobHoskins. The film -- produced by France's EuropaCorp, TF1 Films and Canal + andacquired by Focus for the US and a number of international territories -managed a $5,409 average from 1,957 screens.

The weekend's other new release, Dimension's Mindhunters,scraped into the top ten with a weak $2m. The Renny Harlin action thriller,starring LL Cool J, Val Kilmer and Christian Slater and financed and soldinternationally by Intermedia, has been on the shelf in the US for more than ayear and managed only $1,926 from 1,040 screens.

Kingdom of Heaven dropped to fourth place after itschart-topping but still disappointing debut, grossing an estimated $9.6m from3,219 screens (average $2,990).

Lions Gate's Crash held on better the week after itsopening, falling off only 21% with an estimated $7.2m from 1,876 screens(average $3,838). Warner Bros' House of Wax was down 48% in its secondweek with $6.3m from 3,111 screens (average $2,015).

The US summer season should finally get a much-needed kick-startnext weekend, which sees the ultra-wide release, starting on Thursday, May 19,of Star Wars: Episode III - The Revenge of the Sith. No other widereleases have dared to go up against the final installment of the Star Warsseries but limited launches include Warner Bros' Dominion: Prequel to TheExorcist, in its original version directed by Paul Schrader.

Estimated Top Ten US May 13-15 2005

Film (Distributor)/Internationaldistribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) Monster-in-Law (New Line) New Line$24m -

2 (-) Kicking & Screaming (Universal)UIP $20.9m -

3 (-) Unleashed (Rogue) EuropaCorp/UIP$10.6m -

4 (1) Kingdom of Heaven (Fox) Fox Int'l$9.6m $35.1m

5 (4) Crash (Lions Gate) Syndicate FilmsInt'l $7.2m $19.8m

6 (2) House of Wax (Warner Bros) Warner BrosInt'l/Village Roadshow $6.3m $21.7

7 (3) The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy (BuenaVista) Spyglass/BVI $4.8m $43.3m

8 (5) The Interpreter (Universal) UIP $4.4m$61m

9 (6) XXX: State of the Union (Sony/Revolution)SPRI/Revolution $2.2m $24.4m

10 (-) Mindhunters (Dimension) Intermedia/SPRI $2m-