Mel Gibson and director M Night Shyamalan both recorded career-high openings as the mystery-drama Signs recorded a blockbuster opening for Buena Vista over the weekend with an estimated $60.3m. It is the first number one for the studio since Monsters, Inc. last November and is almost double what executives had been expecting. The impressive debut was also a record high for Disney production label Touchstone Pictures, which reported an average of $18,474 from 3,264 venues. Figures are based on studio estimates and final figures will be released on Monday.

New Line's Austin Powers In Goldmember dropped 56% to second place with a $32.4m haul that brings its total after ten days to $142.6m - the eleventh picture to pass $100m this year. This weekend's two other top ten openers, Columbia/Revolution's comedy The Master Of Disguise and Paramount's Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat, opened third and fourth on $13m and $7.5m respectively. The top five was rounded out with DreamWorks's solemn gangster drama Road To Perdition, which took $6.6m to register a $77.2m cumulative after four weeks.

Signs stars Gibson as an ex-clergyman and patriarch who must protect his family after crop circles appear in his corn fields, precipitating a series of strange phenomena. Joaquin Phoenix co-stars. The picture received excellent reviews and praise for director Shyamalan, whose previous credits include similarly supernatural fare in The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. The Sixth Sense took $27m when it opened in 1999 and went on to become the 13th highest grossing movie of all time with $293m. Unbreakable opened in 2000 with $30m and finished on $95m.

The Master Of Disguise, which cost $16m and was produced by Joe Roth's Revolution Studios, is a family comedy in which Saturday Night Live stalwart Dana Carvey plays a disguise expert who does battle with an evil black-marketer in order to save his family's trade secrets. The picture averaged $5,068 from 2,565 theatres and received some dismal reviews. Martin Lawrence's return to stand-up comedy met with general disapproval from the critics but averaged a decent $9,973 from 752 venues.

Columbia's Stuart Little 2 slipped three places to sixth with $6m and, with $46.8m after three weeks on release, is a rare under-achiever for the studio this year. It is expected to finish in the $70m region, around half of what the original took when it came out in 1999. Another disappointment, Intermedia's $90m K-19: The Widowmaker, dived four places to ninth with $3m and has taken just over $30m after three weeks. Once again, IFC's My Big Fat Greek Wedding continued to hold its own in the big league, leap-frogging two place to eighth on $3m to give it a cumulative total of $40m after 16 weeks.

Overall box office for the top 12 pictures fell against the same period last year for the third week running. However the $143m total is no disgrace for this time of the year. Next week's releases include Columbia's Vin Diesel action-thriller XXX; Blood Work, the Clint Eastwood-directed drama for Warner Bros; and Miramax's Spy Kids 2.


Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) Signs (Buena Vista) BVI International $60.3m --

2 (1) Austin Powers In Goldmember (New Line) New Line International $32.4m $142.96m

3 (-) The Master Of Disguise (Columbia) Columbia TriStar/Revolution $13m --

4 (-) Martin Lawrence Live: Runteldat (Paramount) UIP $7.5m --

5 (2) Road To Perdition (DreamWorks SKG) Fox $6.6m $77.2m

6 (3) Stuart Little 2 (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $6m $46.8m

7 (4) Men In Black II (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $4.7m $182m

8 (10) My Big Fat Greek Wedding (IFC) Vortex Pictures $3.01m $40.18m

9 (5) K-19: The Widowmaker (Paramount) UIP $3m $30.89m

10 (6) The Country Bears (Buena Vista) BVI $3m $11.7m