M Night Shyamalan's safehands delivered the promise of a late summer rally for beleaguered Disney atthe weekend, as the young director's latest mystery The Village opened top onan estimated $50.8m.
This was Disney's best everJuly opening weekend, surpassing $46.6m by Pirates Of The Caribbean last year,and presents studio executives with their first cast-iron $100m domesticprospect of the year following high profile flops like King Arthur, The Alamo,Home On The Range and Around The World In 80 Days.
The picture cost around $60mand had been expected to open in the $40m range. Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brodyand William Hurt star in the tale of a 19th century Pennsylvaniansettlement adjoining a community of mythological woodland beasts.
Despite mediocre reviews TheVillage averaged a sterling $13,622 from 3,730 screens. Shyamalan's previouspicture, Signs, opened on $60.1m in August 2002 and went on to gross $227.9m.
Universal's onlypound-for-pound bona fide hit of the summer, The Bourne Identity, raced towards$100m in its second week, falling to second place on $23.4m for $98m, whileParamount's The Manchurian Candidate opened well in third on $20.2m.
Jonathan Demme's remake ofJohn Frankenheimer's acclaimed 1962 political thriller updates the action to theGulf War and drenches the piece in corporate intrigue.
Denzel Washington, LievSchreiber and Meryl Streep drew very strong reviews and the picture averaged$7,045 from 2,867 screens.
Twentieth Century Fox'ssci-fi thriller I, Robot passed $100m last week and in its third weekend added$10.1m for a $114.7m running total, falling two places to fourth.
Sony's Spider-Man 2 slippedone to fifth on $8.5m for $344.3m in its fifth weekend and is not expected topass the $403.7m domestic haul of its 2002 predecessor. However studio sourcessaid it had a good chance of surpassing the original's $418m internationalhaul.
New Line's Harold &Kumar Go To White Castle drew strong reviews and opened seventh on $5.2m, averaging$2,412 from 2.135 screens.
The stoner comedy about twofriends on an epic nocturnal quest for munchies impressed the critics and starsJohn Cho and Kal Penn. Danny Leiner directed.
Universal's Thunderbirds, alive action version of the seminal 1960s sci-fi puppetry series that stars BillPaxton and Ben Kingsley, stalled during take-off as it opened in 11th place on $2.7m. JonathanFrakes' picture averaged $1,312 from 2,057 screens.
DreamWorks' Shrek 2 hasbecome the fourth biggest North American release of all time after raising itsdomestic cumulative score to $432.4m, passing Star Wars: Episode 1 - ThePhantom Menace on $431m.
Next weekend's wide releasesinclude DreamWorks thriller Collateral starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx; andSony's romantic comedy Little Black Book, which stars Brittany Murphy.
Estimated Top Ten US Jul30-Aug 1 2004
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimatedtotal to date
1 (-) The Village(Buena Vista) BVI $50.8m -
2 (1) The BourneSupremacy (Universal) UIP $23.4m $98m
3 (-) The ManchurianCandidate (Paramount) UIP $20.2m -
4 (2) I, Robot (Fox)Fox Intl $10.1m $114.7m
5 (4) Spider-Man 2(Sony) CTFDI $8.5m $344.3m
6 (3) Catwoman(Warner Bros) Warner Bros $6.1m $29.4m
7 (-) Harold & KumarGo To White Castle (New Line) NLI $5.2m -
8 (5) A Cinderella Story(Warner Bros) Warner Bros Intl $4.7m $40.1m
9 (6) Anchorman(DreamWorks) UIP $3.1m $78.1m
10 (7) Fahrenheit 9/11(Lions Gate/IFC Films/Fellowship Adventure Group) Wild Bunch $3.1m $109.4m