The February half-term school holiday is a key date in the UK calendar and last weekend saw four children's titles launch in time for the lucrative session.
Four of the past six years have seen February admissions exceed any other month in the year, including the last leap year, 2000, thanks largely to the school holiday week. 'It's the best holiday date of the year,' explains Alan North, sales director of Buena Vista International (BVI) UK which released The Haunted Mansion for the holiday. 'There's little else in terms of alternative entertainment'.
Haunted Mansion, Fox's Cheaper By The Dozen and Warner's Looney Tunes: Back In Action all proved winners, largely shutting out UK title Tooth, but the top performer proved a matter of debate.
Finishing first in the chart was Fox's Cheaper By The Dozen. The comedy, which headlines Steve Martin, claimed $3.4m (£1.8m). However, a substantial portion of these takings came from two full-day previews at 329 sites the previous weekend which accounted for $1.4m (£734,185) - without which the film would have placed fourth.
The Haunted Mansion, a vehicle for Martin's Bowfinger co-star Eddie Murphy based on a Disney theme park ride, proved the winner over the three-day weekend taken alone with $3.2m (£1.7m). BVI chose not to preview the horror-comedy film preferring to concentrate its marketing on the Friday the 13th release date.
Looney Tunes, which also features Martin, also played previews - its chart figures incorporating $583,460 (£309,059) of previews from 376 sites.
Tooth, a tooth-fairy-themed film featuring UK comic Harry Enfield, had previews of $76,734 (£40,646) at 247 sites but even with these included in its opening weekend figures it could manage only 12th position and a weak $1,225 site average.
Elsewhere in the chart Warner Bros' Something's Gotta Give showed early legs slipping a mere 1% from its opening weekend gross. Last week's leader, School Of Rock, dropped 29% - its percentage drop shown in the chart reflects its drop compared to its opening week including previews.
Meanwhile Momentum Pictures' BAFTA triumph Lost In Translation, which slipped just 9% last weekend and is already the company's highest grossing film ever, will go back up to 286 prints next week following swift demand from exhibitors post Sunday's BAFTA ceremony, where it won best actor, actress and editing awards.