Denzel’s good even when bad

Training Day, whose scheduled release last month was delayed in the wake of the Sept. 11th attacks, opened at the top of the box office over the weekend with an estimated $24.2 million, well above analysts’ forecasts.

Another new film, the romantic comedy Serendipity opened a distant second with about $14 million.

Two other films had so-so debuts. Joy Ride opened in fifth place with $7.4 million, while the kids flick Max Keeble’s Big Move premiered in sixth with $5.5 million, according to studio estimates.

The success of Training Day, a violent thriller starring Denzel Washington as a corrupt cop, indicated that the studios’ worries about violent fare following the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks were unjustified. “I think this will embolden studios to not be as shy of releasing these types of films,” Exhibitor Relations chief Paul Dergarabedian told the Associated Press, adding, nevertheless, that films featuring terrorist attacks remain “a taboo.”

Overall, the top 12 films earned $86.9 million, up 14 percent over the same weekend a year ago and 35.5 percent over last weekend.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. Training Day, $24.1 million; 2. Serendipity, $14 million; 3. Don’t Say a Word, $10 million; 4. Zoolander, $9.8 million; 5. Joy Ride, $7.3 million; 6. Max Keeble’s Big Move, $5.5 million; 7. Hearts in Atlantis, $5.4 million; 8. Hardball, $3.7 million; 9. The Others, $3 million; 10. Rush Hour 2, $1.7 million.