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.
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.
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.
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.
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).