As expected, DreamWorks SKG's superstar vehicle The Mexican which teams Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts topped the North American box office over the weekend, scoring a mighty $20.3m which is the biggest opening ever for the first weekend in March. The R-rated crime caper opened in 2,951 theatres, averaging $6,879 per theatre, which is a strong if not excellent performance. R-rated hit Hannibal, for example, opened with a theatre-average of nearly $18,000.

Reviews were mediocre for the film which stars Pitt as a man in debt to the mob who is sent to Mexico on one last job to retrieve a vintage pistol called The Mexican. Roberts plays his estranged girlfriend who is kidnapped until Pitt has brought the gun back. Gore Verbinski (Mousehunt) is the director, James Gandolfini also stars.

Warner Bros' family dog movie See Spot Run, co-financed with Village Roadshow Pictures, opened strongly at two with $10.2m. Accompanied by the first trailer for Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone which opens in November, the film stars David Arquette and is directed by John Whitesel.

Meanwhile other long-running pictures held on tight - Hannibal took $10.05m to bring its total to $142.8m in its fourth week; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon took $4.93m to bring its total to $88.7m in its 13th week; Traffic continued to impress with $4.5m bringing its total to $92.3m in its tenth week; and Chocolat took $4.2m to rise a notch in the top ten and bring total amassed in 12 weeks to $45.7m.

Limited openings included The Caveman's Valentine, a Jersey Films/Franchise Pictures co-production released by Universal Focus which took $0.12m on 16 theatres for an average of $7,745 and USA Films' Series 7 which took $30,000 on two screens for a $15,000-per theatre average. Both films were premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.

Overall box office was on the up from last year - by about 9.5% - continuing an upward trend which can only bode well for exhibitor/distributor relations at annual convention ShoWest which begins on Tuesday.


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

1 (-) The Mexican (DreamWorks) DreamWorks/Newmarket $20.3m --

2 (-) See Spot Run (Warner Bros) Warner/Village Roadshow $10.2m --

3 (1) Hannibal (MGM) Universal/UIP $10.05m $142.8m

4 (2) Down To Earth (Paramount) UIP $8m $44.1m

5 (5) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony Classics) Good Machine International $4.9m $88.7m

6 (6) Traffic (USA Films) IEG $4.5m $92.3m

7 (8) Chocolat (Miramax) Miramax International $4.2m $45.7m

8 (4) Recess: School's Out (Buena Vista) BVI $3.9m $27.6m

9 (3) 3000 Miles To Graceland (Warner Bros) Franchise Pictures $3m $12.2m

10 (7) Sweet November (Warner Bros) Warner/Bel-Air $2.5m $21.6m