An avalanche of ticket sales for The Rock gave Scorpion King a record setting number one opening of $36.2 million.
Changing Lanes slowed down to place second with $11.1 million. Murder by Numbers opened third with only a small box office killing of $9.5 million.
The Rookie showed strong legs and placed fourth with $6.3 million. Panic Room locked up the fifth spot with $6.2 million.
Driven by Scorpion, key films--those grossing $500,000 or more--totaled $99.1 million, up over 27 percent from last year's $77.8 million. Business was up over 9 percent from the previous weekend's $90.7 million.
THE TOP TEN
Universal's PG-13 rated adventure spinoff The Scorpion King in association with World Wrestling Federation Entertainment and Alphaville kicked off with blockbuster strength to a chart topping ESTIMATED $36.2 million at 3,444 theatres ($10,515 per theater).
Scorpion's average per theater was the highest for any film playing this weekend.
Insiders said Scorpion is well on its way to $100 million in domestic theaters. How far it goes beyond that will depend on how well it holds after Columbia launches its highly anticipated event film Spider-Man May 3.
Scorpion goes into the record books as the biggest opening ever in the month of April. Actually, Universal broke its own record, having set it with $20.4 million for Life the weekend of Apr. 16-18, 1999.
"Everyone at Universal is very excited over the fact that we took one immensely popular franchise and spun off a completely new and obviously equally popular franchise," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning.
"We're happy we were able to launch a summer type movie in mid-April. That's setting precedent again. And certainly, having the April opening record is something to toot your horn about."
Rocco emphasized that, "None of this would have been possible without the tireless efforts of the amazing star of this movie, The Rock, who we're very proud to be in business with. He literally did everything we asked him to do (to launch the movie) and kept coming back for more. He's incredible. He's got talent. He's got charisma.
"And I have to credit our filmmaking partners at Alphaville, (producers) Sean Daniel and Jim Jacks with producers Kevin Misher and Stephen Sommers, for getting this film ready, bringing it to us in time to release it in April and doing it at a relatively inexpensive cost. Because it's not a special effects film like The Mummy, it didn't cost as much. It was $60 million--not (cheap) by today's standards, but still and all it's something to be very proud of."
Asked who was on hand opening weekend, Rocco replied, "It was just what we thought it would be. It was young males, who loved it. They came for The Rock. The audience was (about) 56 percent under 25, which was what was expected for this. And having launched it at this tremendous number, it bodes very well for next weekend where there's really nothing (in terms of huge competition to cut into Scorpion). We have two weeks to ourselves--this week and next week. That's a good thing."
Paramount's R rated road rage drama Changing Lanes drove one notch down the chart to second place in its second week, still on the track with an ESTIMATED $11.1 million (-35%) at 2,642 theaters (+29 theaters; $4,201 per theater). Its cume is approximately $32.8 million.
Directed by Roger Michell, it stars Ben Affleck and Samuel L Jackson.
Castle Rock Entertainment's Murder by Numbers opened calmly in third place via Warner Bros. to an ESTIMATED $9.51 million at 2,663 theaters ($3,569 per theater).
Directed by Barbet Schroeder, it stars Sandra Bullock.
"About 71 percent of the audience was over the age of 25, of which 60 percent were female," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning.
"So it was predominantly female. It's a different kind of film for Sandra Bullock and a film she wanted to make. It wasn't that far from the studio projections. We'll hang in there and see how we hold up. Next week's not very strong (in terms of new competition)."
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated family appeal baseball drama The Rookie rose one rung to fourth place in its fourth week, still rounding the bases with great energy with an ESTIMATED $6.3 million (-21%) at 2,507 theaters (-13 theaters; $2,528 per theater). Its cume is approximately $53.7 million.
Directed by John Lee Hancock, it stars Dennis Quaid.
Columbia's R rated thriller Panic Room escaped three blocks south to fifth place in its fourth week with a still scary ESTIMATED $6.2 million (-42%) at 2,825 theaters (-294 theaters; $2,195 per theater). Its cume is approximately $82.2 million, heading for the area of $100 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by David Fincher, it stars Jodie Foster.
"We have opened every (new international) market in the number one position. This weekend we had a very big opening in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy--all in the number one position," Sony Pictures Entertainment worldwide marketing & distribution president Jeff Blake said Sunday morning.
Panic's international numbers, Blake said, are "very comparable to a picture we handled last spring, Erin Brockovich, which was our international title. It's doing that level of business (and is) certainly pointed towards $100 million-plus and we're going to be real close domestic. But, certainly, international is off to that level of start. Obviously, with more major territories to come, we'll know more within a month. Every one has been a terrific launch and a number one opening."
Looking ahead, Blake noted, "Next week is France. The U.K. opens on May 3. And Japan opens May 18."
20th Century Fox's PG rated animated feature Ice Age eroded two pegs to sixth place in its sixth week, still holding nicely with an ESTIMATED $5.74 million (-33%) at 2,817 theaters (-194 theaters; $2,038 per theater). Its cume is approximately $159.5 million, heading for $175 million or more in domestic theaters.
Directed by Chris Wedge, it features the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary.
Columbia's R rated romantic comedy The Sweetest Thing dropped four notches in its second week to seventh place with a bittersweet ESTIMATED $5.2 million (-45%) at 2,670 theaters (theater count unchanged; $1,948 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.0 million.
Directed by Roger Kumble, it stars Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate and Selma Blair.
20th Century Fox and Regency Enterprises' PG-13 rated thriller High Crimes fell two rungs to eighth place in its third week with a dull ESTIMATED $3.77 million (-50%) at 2,408 theaters (-339 theaters; $1,564 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.8 million, heading for $35-40 million.
Directed by Carl Franklin, it stars Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman.
Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' PG rated time travel adventure Clockstoppers slid two slots to ninth place in its fourth week, with a slower ESTIMATED $2.86 million (-39%) at 2,188 theaters (-324 theaters; $1,307 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.9 million, heading for the area of $40 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Jonathan Frakes, it stars Jesse Bradford, Paula Garces, French Stewart, Michael Biehn and Robin Thomas.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Artisan Entertainment's R rated youth comedy National Lampoon's Van Wilder, which was tenth last week, in its third week with a less wild ESTIMATED $2.25 million (-45%) at 1,806 theaters (-298 theaters; $1,246 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.3 million, heading for $20 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Walt Becker, it stars Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid.
"We're thinking it will probably top off at $20 million because I don't think there's going to be more than a couple weeks of business left," Artisan domestic theatrical distribution president Steve Rothenberg said Sunday morning.
"For us, it's a good win. We made the film for between $5-6 million, so to gross $20 million and with all the ancillary (business because) these titles are usually very good in video, we should be fine."
This weekend also saw the arrival of IFC Films' PG rated romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding with a slim ESTIMATED $0.53 million at 108 theaters ($4,895 per theater).
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Manhattan Pictures' R rated thriller Enigma opened to an unexciting ESTIMATED $0.15 million at 25 theaters ($5,985 per theater).
Directed by Michael Apted, it stars Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Jeremy Northam and Saffron Burrows.
Paramount Classics' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Triumph of Love arrived to an non-triumphant ESTIMATED $61,000 at 18 theaters ($3,378 per theater).
Directed by Clare Peploe, it stars Mira Sorvino, Fiona Shaw, Jay Rodan, Rachael Stirling and Ben Kingsley.
Sony Pictures Classics' R rated drama Nine Queens kicked off to a hopeful ESTIMATED $39,000 at 5 theaters ($7,713 per theater).
Directed by Fabian Bielinsky, it stars Ricardo Darin and Gaston Pauls.
Lions Gate Films' R rated drama Chelsea Walls opened to a soft ESTIMATED $10,000 at 3 theaters ($3,219 per theater).
Directed by Ethan Hawke, it stars Rosario Dawson, Vincent D'Onofrio, Kris Kristofferson, Robert Sean Leonard, Natasha Richardson, Uma Thurman, Mark Webber and Steve Zahn.
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend IFC Films' unrated erotic drama Y Tu Mama Tambien went wider in its sixth week with an okay ESTIMATED $1.03 million (+1%) at 243 theaters (+50 theaters; $4,245 per theater). Its cume is approximately $5.9 million.
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, it stars Maribel Verdu, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.
USA Films' R rated romantic comedy Monsoon Wedding added theaters in its ninth week with a still enticing ESTIMATED $0.71 million (+14%) at 189 theaters (+27 theaters; $3,740 per theater). Its cume is approximately $7.1 million.
Directed by Mira Nair, it was produced by Nair and Caroline Baron.
Universal's international division reported Sunday morning that The Scorpion King kicked off its international run with an outstanding number one opening in Australia. The film's $0.28 million opening day gross is the second biggest opening day of the year Down Under. In its first three days, Scorpion grossed $1.0 million on 191 playdates.
In the U.K. Scorpion arrived to an excellent $1.7 million on 402 playdates in its first 2 days, including Thursday night previews, and is running neck and neck with Bend it Like Beckham for first place.
In Malaysia, Scorpion grossed $0.33 million on 41 playdates, ranking as Universal's second biggest opening ever, UIP's all-time third biggest opening and the industry's fourth biggest opening in history.
In Singapore, Scorpion grossed $0.36 million on 26 playdates, making it Universal's fourth biggest opening, UIP's sixth biggest opening and the industry's tenth biggest.
In the Philippines, Scorpion also did excellent opening weekend business, grossing $0.23 million on 76 playdates, matching the ticket sales for past blockbusters like Jurassic Park III and Tomb Raider.
In Hong Kong, Scorpion grossed an excellent $0.36 million on 38 playdates, equaling the openings for The Mummy and Tomb Raider.
A Beautiful Mind continued to hold very well in the Top 5 in several countries. In Argentina, Mind tied for first place in its ninth week with $35,000 (-17%) on 51 playdates.
In Brazil, it ranked fifth in its tenth week with $0.11 million (-27%) on 155 playdates.
Mind was fifth in its eighth week in Germany with $0.46 million (-21%) on 389 playdates.
In Mexico, it placed fifth in its eighth week with $0.14 million (-24%) on 153 playdates.
Ali G Is in Da House, Universal's latest film from Working Title, was ninth in its fifth week, grossing $0.32 million (-38%) on 282 playdates. In 29 days, Ali G has grossed $13.6 million.
Key films--those grossing more than $500,000--took in approximately $99.1 million, up about 27.42 percent from last year when they totaled $77.78 million.
Key films this weekend were up about 9.27 percent from the previous weekend of this year's total of $90.7 million.
Last year, Miramax and Universal's second week of Bridget Jones's Diary was first with $10.2 million at 2,221 theaters ($4,585 per theater); and Dimension Films' fourth week of Spy Kids was second with $10.1 million at 3,191 theaters ($3,156 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $20.3 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $47.3 million.
Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz have unwrapped their plans to co-star in "The Mummy 2," set to begin shooting this spring for a May 2001 release. The dynamic duo will reprise their roles as rugged hero Rick O'Connell and love interest Evelyn Carnahan.
Both actors had been expected to return to action after Universal received a commitment from "Mummy" writer-director Stephen Sommers six months ago. Also returning to the fold is co-star John Hannah. Daily Variety reports that it's his first $1 million deal.
Fraser's expected to receive somewhere in the $12.5 million range, up from the $5 million he collected for the first installment. The actor's most recent payday was $10 million for 20th Century Fox's update of "Bedazzled." The new story will follow the entombed terror as it resurfaces in London. The script reportedly includes a 9-year-old son for Fraser and Weisz's characters who shares his father's knack for adventure. The studio says possible locations for the shoot include Egypt, Morocco and London.
MORSE GETS 'LIFE': "The Green Mile's" David Morse is ready to be taken hostage in the Taylor Hackford-directed "Proof of Life." Morse will co-star with Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe and David Caruso. It's the third Castle Rock Entertainment film for the actor, after "The Green Mile" and "Extreme Measures." The story involves a hostage negotiator (Crowe) who falls for the wife (Ryan) of the person (Morse) he's hired to save.
'LOVE RETURNS' FOR BARRYMORE: Drew Barrymore's latest romance is an adaptation of Robert Nathan's 1958 book "So Love Returns." Variety notes that the "Ever After" star has signed on to direct and headline the supernatural love story after obtaining the rights from the author's estate.
The story involves a writer who can't get over the death of his wife. He isolates himself from the world and his two kids. But then he meets a magical woman (Barrymore in the flesh) who appears out of the sea to help him recover.
Barrymore will produce the feature with Middle Fork Productions, after passing on studios that wanted to turn her character into a mermaid. Budget for the indie project is $5 million.
STONE'S BROADWAY INSTINCT: Sharon Stone might be ripe for Broadway. The "Casino" star is considering a role in David Mamet's "Boston Marriage," with Variety reporting that she's already met with "The Iceman Cometh" stage director Howard Davies about the project. The sexy star could be just the right enticement. The play's involves two lesbians at the turn of the century.
TARANTINO THE ACTOR: "Pulp Fiction" director Quentin Tarantino will flex his thespian chops once again (after flopping in the Broadway play "Wait Until Dark") in a cameo for the Adam Sandler flick "Little Nicky." Sandler stars as the son of Satan in the pic, while Tarantino plays a blind preacher whom "senses" Sandler's presence.