MGM/Columbia's The Pink Panther won a tightrace at the North American box office this weekend, as four new wide releasesfound their respective audiences and took the top four spots on the box officechart.

With an estimated gross of $21.7m, The Pink Pantheredged out New Line's Final Destination 3, while Universal's CuriousGeorge came in a strong third and Warner's Firewall was a solidfourth.

Most holdovers suffered heavy losses and slid downthe chart -- only Focus Features' multiple Oscar nominee Brokeback Mountainmanaged to retain the bulk of its audience.

With Steve Martin starring as Inspector Clouseauand Shawn Levy directing, The Pink Panther, MGM's revival of its classiccomedy property, was aiming for the baby boomer and adult audience. In spite ofmostly negative reviews, the result was a better-than-expected $21.7m from3,477 theatres, for a per theatre average of $6,241. Originally set for releaselast summer, the film is distributed in the US under new MGM owner Sony'sColumbia label.

New Line's teen horror sequel Final Destination3 -- with Mary Elizabeth Winstead starring and franchise originator JamesWong directing - opened substantially better than either of its twopredecessors, grossing an estimated $20.1m from 2,880 theatres for a $6,988average, the top ten's highest. The opening bodes well for the franchise andfor the continuing strength of the horror genre.

Curious George, from Imagine and Universal,was aiming for younger kids with its traditionally animated take on the classicchildren's books about a mischievous monkey and his human friend. Familiaritywith the character, positive reviews and the voice performance of Will Ferrellhelped the movie, directed by Matthew O'Callaghan, do considerably better thanexpected, with an estimated gross of $15.3m from 2,566 theatres (average -$5,970).

Firewall, the Richard Loncraine-directedthriller from Warner and Village Roadshow, boasted Harrison Ford in his firstbig movie for almost three years. Mostly dismissive reviews may, however, havekept some older moviegoers away: the estimated gross of $13.8m from 2,840theatres (average - $4,870) was only just within the range of expectations andnot much better than the openings of Ford's previous two films, HollywoodHomicide and K-19: The Widowmaker, both box office disappointments.

Last week's six top films slid down the chart enmasse. Screen Gems' When A Stranger Calls, which opened at the top ofthe chart last week, ended up in fifth place with an estimated gross of $10m -down 54% -- from 3,004 theatres (average - $3,329).

Fox's Big Momma's House 2 was down 50% to anestimated $6.8m from 2,733 theatres (average - $2,497), and Universal's NannyMcPhee was off 47% to $5.2m from 2,148 theatres (average - $2,435).

Focus' Brokeback Mountain kept its declineto 30%, for an estimated $4.2m from 1,963 theatres (average - $2,136).

The last two entries on the chart effectively tiedwith each other and with Focus' Something New, which opened last week.The Weinstein Co's Hoodwinked claimed a gross of $2,502,000 from 2,085theatres, while Screen Gems' Underworld: Evolution reported an even$2,500,000 from 1,835 theatres.

Next weekend's wide releases are: Fox's romanticcomedy spoof Date Movie, with Alyson Hannigan and Adam Campbell; BuenaVista's adventure Eight Below, featuring Paul Walker; andSony/Revolution's dramatic thriller Freedomland, starring Julianne Mooreand Samuel L Jackson.

Estimated Top Ten North America Feb 10-12 2006

Film (Distributor)/Internationaldistribution/Estimated weekend

gross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) The Pink Panther (MGM/Columbia) FoxInt'l $21.7m -

2 (-) Final Destination 3 (New Line) NewLine Int'l $20.1m -

3 (-) Curious George (Universal) UIP $15.3m-

4 (-) Firewall (Warner) Warner/VillageRoadshow $13.8m -

5 (1) When a Stranger Calls (Screen Gems)SPRI $10m $34.8m

6 (2) Big Momma's House 2 (Fox) Fox Int'l$6.8m $54.8m

7 (3) Nanny McPhee (Universal) UIP $5.2m$33.2m

8 (4) Brokeback Mountain (Focus Features)Focus Features $4.2m $66.6m

9 (6)Hoodwinked (Weinstein Co) CMG $2.5m $47.4m

10 (6) Underworld: Evolution (Screen Gems)SPRI $2.5m $57.2m