The Grinch was number one at the North American box office for the fourth consecutive weekend, bringing Universal Pictures' family smash to a grand total of $195.5m. With its $18.5m take, the Jim Carrey-starrer outclassed three new entries - Columbia's Vertical Limit which came in second with $16m, Warner Bros' Proof Of Life which came in at three with $10.4m and New Line pickup Dungeons And Dragons: The Movie which took $7m for the number five slot.

Box office was up 15% on the same weekend last year and with such mainstream prospects as Disney's The Emperor's New Groove (Dec 15), Mel Gibson comedy What Women Want (Dec 15) and Tom Hanks-starrer Cast Away (Dec 22) on their way, prospects for a strong end-of-year look bright.

Mountaineering actioner Vertical Limit which boasts no stars per se (Chris O'Donnell, Bill Paxton and Robin Tunney) performed well at 2,307 theatres with an average of $6,935 - higher than The Grinch's $5,807. Proof Of Life which stars Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan averaged only $3,848 while Dungeons And Dragons scored $3,369.

None of the three received good reviews, although Vertical Limit and Proof Of Life weren't as decimated as Dungeons And Dragons.

Most impressive of all was Sony Pictures Classics' opening of Ang Lee's critically acclaimed action drama Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. In only 16 theatres, the film grossed $686,657 - an average of $42,916 a screen. And Screen Gems opened Guy Ritchie's Snatch on one screen in Los Angeles to qualify for Academy Awards: it grossed $27,000 over the weekend, and will go wide on 1,500 screens on Jan 19.

Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date
1 (1) Dr Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (Universal) UIP $18.5m $195.5m
2 (-) Vertical Limit (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $16m --
3 (-) Proof Of Life (Warner Bros) Warner Bros/Bel-Air $10.4m --
4 (2) Unbreakable (Buena Vista) BVI $7.5m $77.4m
5 (-) Dungeons And Dragons: The Movie (New Line) J&M Entertainment $7m
6 (3) 102 Dalmatians (Buena Vista) BVI $6.3m $44.3m
7 (4) Rugrats In Paris (Paramount) UIP $4m $60.6m
8 (9) Meet The Parents (Universal) DreamWorks/UIP $3m $157.1m
9 (5) Charlie's Angels (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $2.7m $119.3m
10 (6) Bounce (Miramax) Miramax International $2.6m $34.1m