The Santa Clause 2 fell only 15 percent, placing second with $24.8 million.
The Ring continued to show great legs, down only 11 percent in third place with $16 million.
I Spy finished fourth, holding decently with $9 million.
Jackass: The Moviewas an okay fifth with $7.2 million.
Driven by 8 Mile, key films were up nearly 17 percent from last year -- $141.6 million versus $121.4 million.
THE TOP TEN
Universal and Imagine Entertainment's R rated drama 8 Mile kicked off in first place, setting a number of records with a muscular ESTIMATED $54.46 million at 2,470 theaters ($22,050 per theater), the year's fifth biggest opening.
8 Mile's average per theater was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
"It set a record for the largest opening on its playdate," Universal distribution president Nikki Rocco said Sunday morning. "It's Curtis Hanson's record. It's Brian Grazer's second biggest opening -- and that's only behind $55.1 million (for) Grinch. It's the fourth largest non-holiday November opening behind Harry Potter, Monsters, Inc. and Grinch. And these are all family films. It's the largest November R rated film and the second largest R rated film (opening ever, following) Hannibal at $58 million."
Who was on hand opening weekend? "Under-25 was the audience," Rocco explained. "There's no question this is a film (people) under 25 are going to embrace on opening weekend. 69 percent was under 25. That's not to say there weren't some adults that sampled it -- 31 percent was over the age of 25. We knew we would (reach the young audience) because the main reason for wanting to come see 8 Mile was Eminem. It also drew a slightly more female audience -- 53 percent of the audience was female. It was very ethnically mixed across all quadrants -- Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic, Asian and Other. (These are) all great signs."
The studio's exit polls showed that 86 percent of the opening weekend audience rated 8 Mile in the Top Two Boxes (excellent and very good).
Asked if Universal will go wider with the film, Rocco noted, "We'll see tomorrow (Monday). This is not about numbers of playdates. If there are theaters that can support opening the film and playing through Thanksgiving, I will consider it. This is not about numbers. I think the story is that it's not necessary to be in over 3,000 playdates to launch a film of this magnitude.
"I think we were very smart covering as many markets in North America as we could, not over saturating the markets and making sure these theaters were amply covered with additional prints so they had enough seats. More (theaters) is not necessarily better. We were in 2,470 playdates, but we also had over 3,900 screens. We made sure there were an ample number of seats (to accommodate audiences)."
Buena Vista/Disney's G rated comedy sequel The Santa Clause 2 slid one peg to second place in its second week with a still happy ESTIMATED $24.8 million (-15%) at 3,352 theaters (+2 theaters; $7,397 per theater). Its cume is approximately $60.1 million, heading for $100 million-plus.
The original Santa Clause in its second weekend (Nov. 18-20, 1994) was third with $17.1 million (-11%) at 2,201 theaters ($7,786 per theater). Its cume after 10 days was $40.6 million. It went on to gross $144.6 million in domestic theaters.
DreamWorks' PG-13 rated horror thriller The Ring dropped one rung to third place in its fourth week, still holding well with an ESTIMATED $16.0 million (-11%) at 2,927 theaters (+119 theaters; $5,490 per theater). Its cume is approximately $86.1 million, heading for $100 million-plus.
Columbia's opening of its PG-13 rated comedy I Spy fell one notch to fourth place in its second week, holding respectably with an ESTIMATED $9.0 million (-29%) at 3,182 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,828 per theater). Its cume is approximately $24.7 million.
Paramount and MTV Films' R rated comedy Jackass: The Movie was down one slot to fifth place in its third week with a less funny ESTIMATED $7.2 million (-43%) at 2,532 theaters (+2 theaters; $2,844 per theater). Its cume is approximately $53.3 million.
"It's (going to get to) $60 million-plus now, maybe $65 million," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "It could get to $70 million if it hangs around. It has surprised me from Day One."
IFC Films' release of Gold Circle Films and HBO's PG rated romantic comedy blockbuster My Big Fat Greek Wedding held on to sixth place in its 30th week, still showing outstanding legs with an ESTIMATED $5.75 million (+2%) at 1,975 theaters (-2 theaters; $2,917 per theater). Its cume is approximately $192.8 million, heading for $215 million in domestic theaters.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama held on to seventh place in its seventh week with an okay ESTIMATED $3.8 million (-17%) at 2,004 theaters (-437 theaters; $1,912 per theater). Its cume is approximately $118.6 million, heading for $125 million in domestic theaters.
Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow's R rated horror film Ghost Ship sank three fathoms to eighth place in its third week with a choppy ESTIMATED $3.16 million (-53%) at 2,361 theaters (-426 theaters; $1,338 per theater). Its cume is approximately $26.2 million, heading for $33-35 million.
Warner Bros.' release of Quinta Communications' R rated thriller Femme Fatale from Franchise Films opened ninth with a calm ESTIMATED $2.83 million at 1,066 theaters ($2,655 per theater). Its cume after five days is approximately $3.5 million.
"This is a Franchise Films (movie) distributed by us," Warner Bros. Distribution president Dan Fellman said Sunday morning. "The filmmakers are very pleased with the numbers and we're happy to do the service.
"The picture played very well in New York, L.A., San Francisco, Toronto and Chicago. It had trouble in the mid-section of the country. The exit polls in the big cities were good, but not as good in the small cities. It was about 60-40 male-female. It got very good reviews. It will hang on for a few weeks in the U.S. and, hopefully, maintain itself in the big cities for a while. And I think it will be a very good video."
Revolution Studios and Columbia's R rated romantic comedy drama Punch-Drunk Love, which was eighth last week, tied for tenth place in its fifth week with an unexciting ESTIMATED $2.6 million (-39%) at 1,293 theaters (+41 theaters; $2,011 per theater). Its cume is approximately $14.6 million.
Miramax's R rated drama Frida, which continued to expand in its third week, tied for tenth place with an encouraging ESTIMATED $2.57 million at 319 theaters (+272 theaters; $8,066 per theater). Its cume is approximately $4.3 million.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Focus Features' PG-13 rated drama Far From Heaven to a very promising ESTIMATED $0.21 million at 6 theaters ($34,500 per theater).
"It's really huge," Focus distribution president Jack Foley said Sunday morning. "I've (looked at) the biggest (limited release) openings that have happened since August -- Punch-Drunk Love, One Hour Photo, Frida, The Good Girl, Igby Goes Down, Bowling For Columbine-- and it ranks number five among them. Those have been big openings. Punch-Drunk Love, had a $76,000 print average. One Hour Photo, was $45,000. Frida was $41,000. Good Girl was $37,000. We're sitting with a $34,500 print average. Based on how sophisticated this film is, it'd be wonderful if we can do the same business as these other films. I don't put it in the same category as Punch-Drunk Love or One Hour because (they had superstars like Adam Sandler and Robin Williams), but my God this is huge!"
Asked about expansion plans, Foley said, "We're going to be going into 13 markets next weekend. They'll be the top markets (like) Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc. The runs will be varying from limited multiples -- for instance, in San Francisco we'll be in about six theaters, where the film should be explosive -- to exclusive runs, for instance, in Atlanta, Denver, Phoenix and Portland. We should be on 37 or 38 screens next weekend. The reviews have been perfect because they've really delved into how wonderful a film it is and how well it's (been) made, as well as the entertainment value.
"It uses the language of film in an exciting and a sort of revitalized way. You've never seen anything like this before. It's so amazing. It's such a sophisticated movie."
There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
On the expansion front this weekend United Artists' R rated satiric documentary Bowling For Columbine released via MGM went wider in its fourth week with a still compelling ESTIMATED $1.65 million at 222 theaters (+60 theaters; $7,432 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.9 million.
Written, produced and directed by Michael Moore, it won the Special Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival.
HBO Films and Newmarket Films' PG-13 rated comedy drama Real Women Have Curves added theaters in its fourth week with a slow ESTIMATED $0.5 million (+6%) at 148 theaters (+24 theaters; $3,385 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.9 million.
Miramax's Comedian expanded in its fifth week with a weak ESTIMATED $0.5 million (-28%) at 244 theaters (+19 theaters; $2,032 per theater). Its cume is approximately $1.8 million.
Artisan Entertainment's R rated comedy Rodger Dodger widened in its third week with an okay ESTIMATED $0.17 million at 34 theaters (+9 theaters; $4,853 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0.4 million.
Artisan said it will expand this Friday (Nov. 15) into 16 more key markets, adding another 20 theaters.
Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 -- took in approximately $141.65 million for the weekend, up about 16.73 percent from last year when they totaled $121.35 million.
Key films were up about 24.94 percent from the previous weekend this year when they totaled $113.37 million.
Last year, Buena Vista/Disney's second week of Monsters, Inc. was first with $45.55 million at 3,269 theaters ($13,934 per theater); and Fox's opening week of Shallow Hal was second with $22.52 million at 2,770 theaters ($8,129 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $68.1 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $79.3 million.