Once upon time there was an action-packed film trilogy whose third installment happened to take the box office in its opening weekend.
Director Robert Rodriguez's Once Upon a Time in Mexico about a Mexican gunslinger named El Mariachi hell bent on revenge debuted at No. 1 on the box office chart this weekend with $24 million*, far outshining its predecessors and becoming the third biggest September opener ever. Only Sweet Home Alabama, which opened last year at $35 million, and Rush Hour, which opened in 1998 at $33 million, tops Mexico.
The stylistically violent trilogy has come a long way since its 1993 original independent film El Mariachi, which became a studied classic in the indie film world for the way Rodriguez, a student at the time, shot the film with a handheld 16mm camera on a shoestring budget. El Mariachi went on to win several awards, including the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival, but opened in theaters with a measly $312,528. Luckily, with clout (and a major studio) behind him, Rodriguez was able to make the higher-profiled sequel Desperado, starring Antonio Banderas, in 1995; it opened at $7.9 million.
Two other newcomers to this weekend's movie fare made it near the top of the box office list. The griftin' Matchstick Men opened in second place with $13.2 million, making it the second best opener for its star Nicolas Cage in the last five years (Cage's WWII drama Windtalkers took in $14.5 million last year). As well, the horrific, flesh-eating Cabin Fever premiered in the third spot with $8.4 million.
The childish Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star dropped out of its first place slot from last week to come in at No. 4 with $5 million, while the ever-present Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl rounded out the top five with $4.6 million.
The indie Lost In Translation, a brilliant character study about two Americans finding each other in Tokyo, starring Bill Murray, debuted in limited theaters and impressively managed to rake in nearly $1 million. Thankfully, fueled by the bigger numbers, the overall box office jumped nearly 46 percent from last week's dismal numbers.
THE TOP TEN
Sony Pictures' R-rated blood- and- bullets fest Once Upon a Time in Mexico came out on top with an ESTIMATED $24 million in 3,282 theaters. Its $7,313 per theater average was the highest of any film playing wide this week.
The film continues the revenge exploits of El Mariachi, this time called upon by a corrupt CIA agent to help thwart an assassination attempt.
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, it stars Antonio Banderas, Johnny Depp, Salma Hayek and Willem Dafoe.
Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated swindler Matchstick Men took second place with an ESTIMATED $13.2 million in 2,711 theaters ($4,902 per theater).
The film follows an obsessive-compulsive con artist who meets his 14-year-old daughter for the first time; she ends up changing his life forever.
Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Nicolas Cage, Sam Rockwell and Alison Lohman.
Lions Gate's R-rated Cabin Fever sufficiently grossed everyone out in the third spot with an ESTIMATED $8.4 million in 2,087 theaters ($4,049 per theater).
Five friends isolated in a cabin contract a deadly flesh-eating virus and are forced to fight the disease--or fight off their closest friends.
Directed by Eli Roth, it stars Rider Strong, Jordan Ladd, Joey Kern, Cerina Vincent and James Debello.
Paramount Picture's PG-13 rated comedy Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star slipped off its No. 1 perch of last week to fall to No. 4 with an ESTIMATED $5 million (-25%) in 2,083 theaters (+57 theaters; $2,400 per theater). The film about a grown-up child star trying to make a comeback has earned $12.8 million so far.
Directed by Sam Weisman, it stars David Spade, Jon Lovitz, Alyssa Milano, Doris Roberts, Craig Bierko and Mary McCormack.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Buena Vista Pictures' PG-13 rated success story Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl fell two spots to the fifth spot in its 10th week with an ESTIMATED $4.6 million (-12%) at 2,029 theaters (-174 theaters; $2,282 per theater). Its cume is approximately $288 million.
Directed by Gore Verbinski and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, it stars Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley.
Buena Vista's PG rated family remake Freaky Friday dropped two places to the sixth position in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-18%) in 2,567 theaters (-406 theaters; $1,611 per theater). Its cume is $102 million, making it the 21st film this year to cross the $100 million mark.
Directed by Mark Waters, it stars Jamie Lee Curtis, Lindsay Lohan, Chad Michael Murray and Mark Harmon.
MGM's R rated Jeepers Creepers 2, dropped considerably from second to seventh place with an ESTIMATED $3 million (-54%) in its third week in 2,784 theaters (-340; $1,076 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $31.8 million.
Directed by Victor Salva, it stars Ray Wise, Jonathan Breck, Nicki Lynn Aycox, Garikayi Mutambirwa and Lena Caldwell.
Buena Vista's R rated Western Open Range fell one notches to come in eighth in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $2.809 million (-33%) in 2,063 theaters (-205 theaters; $1,362 per theater). Its cume is approximately $53.5 million.
Directed by and starring Kevin Costner, it also stars Robert Duvall, Annette Bening, Diego Luna and Michael Gambon.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated S.W.A.T. dropped four spots to No. 9 in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $2.8 million (-39%) in 2,062 theaters (-538 theaters; $1,358 per theater). Its cume is approximately $112.8 million.
Directed by Clark Johnson, it stars Colin Farrell, Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J and Michelle Rodriguez.
Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated equestrian drama Seabiscuit dropped two spots to finish in 10th place in its eighth week with ESTIMATED $2.7 million (-26%) in 2,102 theaters (-471 theaters; $1,300 per theater). Its cume is approximately $113.5 million.
Directed by Gary Ross, it stars Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper.
Focus Features' R-rated Lost In Translation premiered with a respectable ESTIMATED $901,143 in 23 theaters. It took a whopping $39, 180 per theater average.
Gaining tremendous word of mouth, the film follows the unlikely friendship between a bored young wife and an aging movie star, both staying in a hotel in Tokyo.
Directed Sofia Coppola, it stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson.
Last year's top three included: MGM's riotous PG-13 rated Barbershop debuted at No. 1 with $20.6 million in 1,605 theaters (12,852 per theater); the indie sleeper My Big Fat Greek Wedding, stayed in second in its 22nd week of release with $10.7 million at 1,764 theaters ($6,107 per theater); and Fox Searchlight's creepy One Hour Photo moved up to third place in its third week with $8 million in 1,212 theaters ($6,606 per theater).