Lemony Snicket's A Series OfUnfortunate Events gave Paramount a much-needed number one opening at theweekend as it swooped to the top on an estimated $30.2m.

Brad Silberling's adaptation of Daniel Handler's bestselling children's bookscentres on a pair of orphans and heirs to a fortune who are sent to live with abizarre and scheming relative.

Jim Carrey stars along with Meryl Streep and the well-received picture averaged$8,342 on 3,620 screens.

Warner Bros' Ocean's Twelve slipped to second place in its secondweekend on $18.3m for $68.7m, while Sony's $80m comedy Spanglish openedthird to mixed reviews on $9m, roughly half of what observers expected.

James L Brook's picture stars Adam Sandler and Tea Leoni as wealthy anddysfunctional Los Angeles parents whose existential woes are brought to thefore after they employ a beautiful Mexican maid. Paz Vega also stars and the pictureaveraged $3,691 on 2,438.

Elsewhere 20th Century Fox's The Flight Of The Phoenix scoreda disappointing debut in eighth place on $5.2m. Dennis Quaid, Tyrese Gibson,Giovanni Ribisi and Miranda Otto star as crash survivors in the desert who mustrebuild their plane and fly to safety.

Phoenix drew mostly poor reviews and averaged $1,977 on 2,604 screens.John Moore directed this remake of the 1965 adventure starring James Stewart.

There were strong limited openings for several likely Oscar contenders.Miramax's The Aviator, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring LeonardoDiCaprio as Howard Hughes, grossed roughly $831,000 on 40 theatres and willexpand wide next weekend.

Clint Eastwood's boxing drama Million Dollar Baby starring Hilary Swanktook approximately $178,000 from eight theatres for Warner Bros, while LionsGate's Bobby Darin biopic Beyond The Sea directed by and starring KevinSpacey took $48,000 from six theatres.

The top 12 titles grossed roughly $100.3m, a drop of 25% from last year when TheLord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King opened top on $72.6m.

Next weekend's wide release is Universal's comedy sequel Meet The Fockersstarring Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Barbara Streisand and Dustin Hoffman.

Estimated Top Ten US Nov 17-192004

Film (Distributor)/Internationaldistribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date
1 (-) Lemony Snicket's A Series Of Unfortunate Events (Paramount)DreamWorks Int'l $30.2m -
2 (1) Ocean's Twelve (Warner Bros) Warner Bros Int'l $18.3m$68.7m
3 (-) Spanglish (Sony) SPRI $9m -
4 (4) The Polar Express (Warner Bros) Warner Bros Int'l $8.6m$123.6m
5 (2) Blade: Trinity (New Line) NLI $6.6m $35.4m
6 (3) National Treasure (Buena Vista) BVI $6.1m $132.8m
7 (5) Christmas With The Kranks (Revolution/Sony) SPRI $5.7m $62.3m
8 (-) The Flight Of The Phoenix (Fox) Fox Int'l $5.2m -
9 (8) Closer (Sony) SPRI $3.5m $18.9m
10 (6) The Incredibles (Pixar/Disney) BVI $3.3m $237.1m