New Line Cinema's only release of the summer - serial killer thriller The Cell - took the top spot at the North American box office over the weekend with an estimated $17.2m on 2,411 screens for a strong screen average of $7,134. The very adult movie, in which a psychologist enters the mind of a comatose serial killer in order to find the location of his final victim, was directed by first timer Tarsem Singh, most famous for his commercial and music video work (he directed Losing My Religion by REM).
The key audience for the film was men and women under the age of 35 according to exit polls. They were also drawn by its star Jennifer Lopez whose stock will grow even higher from two movies released early next year - The Wedding Planner and Angel Eyes.
Performing very strongly at number two was Paramount's The Original Kings Of Comedy, a new documentary directed by Spike Lee, which took a giant $11.7m. Shot over four days on digital video and blown up to 35mm, the low budget film focused on the onstage and backstage antics of four black comics on tour - DL Hughley, Cedric The Entertainer, Bernie Mac and Steve Harvey. It scored the highest average in the top ten - $13,813 from just 847 screens - and attracted a mainly black audience. It marks the highest documentary opening ever and in fact exceeds most total grosses for documentaries in the last decade.
It was another disappointing weekend at the box office, down yet again - about 35% - from the same weekend last year when The Sixth Sense was topping the chart. Only one weekend remains before Labor Day officially marks the end of the summer and next weekend sees only two big openers, Buena Vista's The Crew and Warner Bros' The Art Of War, neither of which smell of breakout success.
As for the holdovers from the last few weeks, only Clint Eastwood-starrer Space Cowboys stood up well, taking $9.9m to cross the $50m barrier. The popular and critically acclaimed action adventure could cross the $100m mark if its continues to show such endurance with audiences. Columbia's Hollow Man, which was at the head of the box office last week, tumbled to number seven with $6.1m, while last week's openers The Replacements, Autumn In New York and Bless The Child all saw big loss of audiences.
Meanwhile Sony Pictures' attempt to score a left-field hit with a dubbed release of the 23rd installment of the Japanese Godzilla movies was moderately successful. Although it failed to make the top ten, Godzilla 2000 took $4.6m to take the number eleven spot. Sony said that the cost of acquiring the film, re-editing it and dubbing it as well as releasing and marketing it is no more than $10m, meaning that it could turn a modest profit on the experiment.
Two more movies passed the $100m mark this week - Universal's Nutty Professor II: The Klumps did so on Friday with its total now at $104.4m; DreamWorks' Chicken Run also scraped past on Wednesday, its total now at $101.9m. Chicken Run also beat The Prince Of Egypt to become the best performing animated film yet released by DreamWorks.
Perhaps most notable of all this weekend was Fine Line's British comedy Saving Grace which took $1.03m from 254 screens, boding well for its further expansion to 700 screens in two weeks time.
ESTIMATED TOP TEN US AUG 18-20
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date
1 (-) The Cell (New Line) New Line International $17.2m --
2 (-) The Original Kings Of Comedy (Paramount) UIP $11.7m --
3 (2) Space Cowboys (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $9.9m $54.2m
4 (3) The Replacements (Warner Bros) Warner Bros/StudioCanal $7.5m $23.7m
5 (6) What Lies Beneath (DreamWorks SKG) 20th Century Fox $7.1m $123.7m
6 (5) Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (Universal) UIP $6.4m $104.4m
7 (1) Hollow Man (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $6.1m $61.7m
8 (4) Autumn In New York (MGM) Lakeshore International $5.7m $21.2m
9 (8) Coyote Ugly (Buena Vista) BVI $5m $43.8m
10 (7) Bless The Child (Paramount) Icon Entertainment International $4.9m $18.1m