Warner Bros' epic disaster movie The Perfect Storm was the champion at the North American box office over the Fourth Of July weekend, grossing $41.7m in the Friday to Sunday period, some $20m more than its nearest competition, Columbia Pictures' opener The Patriot.

Playing at 3,407 screens, Wolfgang Petersen's true life actioner scored the highest site average in the top ten with $12,234. The opening also marked the third highest Fourth of July opening of all time behind Men In Black ($51m in 1997) and Independence Day ($50m in 1996) and the highest ever July opening for Warner Bros.

It also signals George Clooney's coming out as a bankable box office movie star. Much was made in the US media of the Clooney vs Mel Gibson rivalry over the weekend, and Clooney came out on top. Gibson's The Patriot, like The Perfect Storm directed by a German - Roland Emmerich, was inhibited by its R rating and near three hour length. Having opened on Wednesday, its five day cumulative gross is an estimated $31m. On 3,061 screens, its weekend per screen average was $7,089.

Of course, the US is still enjoying the holiday and Monday and Tuesday should prove massive days for the box office, restoring some lustre to the disappointing season. Indeed some other titles were less than impressive. Fox's Me Myself & Irene, last week's number one movie, tumbled 48% to $12m on 3,062 screens bringing its total figure after ten days to $47.6m. And Universal's expensive live action/animated mix The Adventures Of Rocky And Bullwinkle opened with a poor $6.7m at 2,458 screens for an average of $2,690 per screen.

DreamWorks' Chicken Run on the other hand is showing legs dropping only 27% in its second weekend to take $12.8m and bring its total to $41m. It also, of course, features Mel Gibson, performing one of the voices.


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

1 (-) The Perfect Storm (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $41.7m --
2 (-) The Patriot (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $21.7m $31m
3 (2) Chicken Run (DreamWorks SKG) UIP/Pathe $12.8m $41.1m
4 (1) Me, Myself & Irene (20th Century Fox) Fox International $12m $47.6m
5 (-) The Adventures Of Rocky & Bullwinkle (Universal) UIP/Various $6.7m
6 (3) Shaft (Paramount) UIP $6.45m $53.2m
7 (5) Big Momma's House (20th Century Fox) Fox International $5.5m $94.7m
8 (4) Gone In 60 Seconds (Buena Vista) BVI $5m $78.6m
9 (6) Mission: Impossible 2 (Paramount) UIP $4.8m $196.9m
10 (7) Gladiator (DreamWorks) Universal/UIP $2.4m $169.7m