Newmarket Film's ThePassion Of The Christ streaked past $200m in its second weekend, holding onto top spot and adding an estimated $51.4m for $212m.
Newmarket president BobBerney said Mel Gibson's picture fell only 39% - a very strong hold bearing inmind releases of this scale typically fall 50% in their second weekend - andpredicted it would pass $300m.
By way of comparison, TheLord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King, which used its Oscar triumph ofthe previous weekend to break back into the top 10, had amassed $222m by thesame stage.
This raises the possibilityof a possible $350m finish for Passion, which Berney said yesterday wasplaying across all age groups and regions in the US including strong showingsamong Latino and African-American communities.
Roughly $3m of Passion'srunning total includes private previews from the two days prior to its AshWednesday release.
Warner Bros' Starsky& Hutch opened second on $29.1m, which at this time of the year wouldusually have been sufficient to open top.
Ben Stiller and Owen Wilsonteam up in the 1970s television cop series adaptation, which explores how thepair came together. Snoop Dogg stars as informant Huggy Bear and Vince Vaughnadds support.
Todd Phillips directed andthe picture received mixed reviews, averaging a strong $9,120 from 3,185 sites.
Opening third on $19.6m wasBuena Vista's desert horse racing saga Hidalgo, which averaged $6,398from 3,063 theatres and also divided the critics.
Supposedly based on trueevents, Viggo Mortensen stars as a late nineteenth century long-distancehorseman who rides his mustang in a fabled Arabian race. Joe Johnston directedand the picture also stars Omar Sharif.
Elsewhere, Columbia'sromantic comedy Fifty First Dates is on the cusp of $100m as it slippedtwo places to fourth on $7.7m for $99.4m in its fourth week.
Return Of The King climbed four places to seventh in its 12thweek on $3.2m for $368.3m and Newmarket's Monster also felt the Oscareffect following Charlize Theron's best actress win, climbing three to 10thon $2.3m for $30m.
Next weekend's wide releasesare: MGM's teen sequel Agent Cody Banks 2, starring Frankie Muniz andAnthony Anderson; 20th Century Fox's comedy-drama The Girl NextDoor, starring Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert; Paramount's romanticcomedy The Prince And Me, starring Julia Stiles and Luke Mably;Columbia's thriller Secret Window, starring Johnny Depp and Mario Bello;and Warner Bros' political thriller Spartan, which stars Val Kilmer,Derek Luke and William H Macy.
Estimated Top Ten US Mar 5-7 2004
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimatedtotal to date
1 (1) The Passion OfThe Christ (Newmarket) IconProductions $51.4m $212m
2 (-) Starksy & Hutch (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $29.1m -
3 (-) Hidalgo (Buena Vista) BVI $19.6m -
4 (2) Fifty First Dates (Columbia) CTFDI $7.7m $99.4m
5 (3) Twisted (Paramount) Summit Entertainment $5m $16.4m
6 (4) Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen (Buena Vista) BVI $4m $21.8m
7 (11) The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (New Line) NLI$3.2m $368.3m
8 (5) Dirty Dancing: Havana Knights (Lions Gate) Miramax International$2.9m $10m
9 (6) Miracle (Buena Vista) BVI $2.6m $59.9m
10 (13) Monster (Newmarket) Media 8 $2.3m $30m