Universal's TheScorpion King paralysedthe competition over the weekend and went straight to the top of the domesticbox office with a record-breaking April opening of $36.2m, according to studioestimates released today.

The Mummy spin-off sees former wrestling star TheRock (a.k.a. Dwayne Johnson) headline as a mercenary nomad who battles an evilwarlord and is set in Egypt 5,000 years ago.

With expectations running highfor what the studio hopes will become a lucrative franchise, The ScorpionKing knocked1999's The Matrixoff its perch as the previous highest April opener on $27.8m. Its site averageof $10,511 at 3,444 typified a highly profitable weekend for the studios, withthe 12 top movies raking in $93.1m, up 38 per cent on the same weekend lastyear.

However The Scorpion King did not fare as well as its progenitorson their opening weekends: The Mummy grossed $43.4m in its first three days in 1999 while lastyear's The Mummy Returns, in which the character of the Scorpion King was introduced, took$68.1m.

Nikki Rocco, head ofdistribution at Universal, said the $60m movie had showcased a new star andpraised The Rock's charisma and energy. With no major action releasesplanned for next weekend the movie should benefit from another chance to shoreup weekend audiences before the blockbuster season begins in earnest with therelease of Spider-Manon May 3.

Changing Lanes, the Paramount thriller starring BenAffleck and Samuel L Jackson, slipped to second place with $11.1m, boosting itsten-day total to an estimated $32.8m in 10 days. Confirmed figures will bereleased on Monday.

The weekend's second majoropening, the Sandra Bullock crime thriller Murder By Numbers, grossed $9.5m and finished third. Itplayed in 2,663 venues and averaged $3,571 per site. Bullock plays against typeas a tough homicide cop on the trail of two schoolboy killers and receivedsatisfactory reviews. The thriller's strong female lead echoes recent releasessuch as Panic Roomand High Crimes.Preliminary figures reveal three-quarters of the audience for Murder ByNumbers was aged 25 orabove while six out of ten ticket holders were female.

Elsewhere the romantic comedy My Big FatGreek Wedding grossed $554,282 in108 venues for a $5,132 average.

Next week's releases include Lifeor Something Like It, starringAngelina Jolie and Edward Burns, and Jason X, the latest instalment in the Friday the 13th franchise


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

1 (-) The Scorpion King (Universal) $36.2m --

2 (1) Changing Lanes (Paramount) UIP/Mutual $11.1m $32.8

3 (-) Murder by Numbers (Warner Brothers) $9.5m --

4 (5) The Rookie (Buena Vista) BVI $6.3m $53.7m

5 (2) Panic Room (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $6.2m $82.2m

6 (4) Ice Age (20th Century Fox) Fox International $5.7m $159.5m

7 (3) The Sweetest Thing (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $5.2m $17m

8 (6) High Crimes (20th Century Fox) Fox International $3.8m $30.8m

9 (7) Clockstoppers (Paramount) UIP $2.9m $31.9m

10 (8)National Lampoon's Van Wilder (Artisan) Myriad Pictures $2.3m $17.3m