20th Century Fox's opening of the R-rated "Irene" easily captured first place with a high-speed estimated $24.16 million at 3,016 theaters ($8,012 per theater).
"Irene's" per theater average was the highest for any film playing in wide release this weekend.
"It's the highest-grossing R-rated comedy original ever released. The highest one (R-rated comedy) was 'Beverly Hills Cop II,' which was a sequel and did $33 million," Tom Sherak, 20th Domestic Film Group chairman and senior executive vice president of Fox Filmed Entertainment, said Sunday morning.
Looking at the studio's Friday night exit polls, Sherak said, "The audience was 50 percent male and 50 percent female. 58 percent were over 25. It played best to (males) 25 and younger." Males under 25, he said, scored it 80 percent in the Top Two Boxes -- 45 percent excellent and 35 percent very good -- with an 80 percent definite recommend.
Females under 25 rated it 75 percent in the Top Two Boxes - 35 percent excellent and 40 percent very good -- with a 68 percent definite recommend.
Males over 25 scored it 64 percent in the Top Two boxes - 30 percent excellent and 34 percent very good -- with a 53 percent definite recommend.
Females over 25 liked it least, scoring it 58 percent in the Top Two Boxes - 22 percent excellent and 36 percent very good -- with a 50 percent definite recommend.
"Based on the way the market is, it's a good opening," Sherak added. "Everybody's happy (at Fox)."
"There's Something About Mary," Fox's previous blockbuster from "Irene" directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly, opened the weekend of July 17-19, 1998, to $13.7 million at 2,186 theaters ($6,286 per theater). It went on to gross $176.5 million in domestic theaters.
DreamWorks' G-rated animated feature "Chicken Run" opened a strong second with a sizzling estimated $17.5 million at 2,491 theaters ($7,025 per theater).
"Chicken" began running Wednesday at six theaters in New York and Los Angeles, grossing $47,328 Wednesday and $48,598 Thursday. Its two-day total of $95,926 makes its five-day cume approximately $17.6 million.
"Chicken's" early run in New York and L.A. was intended to attract media attention in the country's top two markets. DreamWorks correctly anticipated that the film would draw favorable reviews and wanted to have quotes available in time for its weekend ads.
"'Antz' opened to $17.2 million, which was our biggest (previous animated feature opening)," DreamWorks distribution head Jim Tharp said Sunday morning. "It's extremely positive because 'Antz' opened at a time (Oct. 2-4, 1998) when there was nothing else in the market for your core family audience. Right now, you've got 'Titan,' 'Dinosaur' and 'Fantasia' in the market. So it's a little more crowded than normal."
Tharp also pointed out that the film's "jump from Friday to Saturday was 29 percent. Historically, animation in June goes up 8 percent to 15%. If you look back at any of the animated movies that opened in recent history, none have gone up more than 15 percent or 16% and most around 10 percent. So the movie is playing on a broader basis, well beyond the core family audience. I think that's caused by the reviews that we got. It was almost 100 percent really good reviews as well as (very favorable) word of mouth.
"In today's world, you start seeing the results of word of mouth on Saturday and Sunday of the opening week. In the old days, you'd have to wait a week or so. Word of mouth is almost instantaneous because of the internet and megaplexes where so many people can see the movie and you get the word out."
DreamWorks, he added, is, "very pleased - to the point where we're going to add 300 to 400 runs this Friday for the holiday weekend. We think the movie is now set up perfectly to expand over those five days (of the July Fourth weekend) and the gross should hold very well."
Paramount's R-rated urban appeal remake "Shaft" fell two rungs to third place in its second week, packing less punch with an estimated $13.25 million (-38 percent) at 2,407 theaters (+70 theaters; $5,505 per theater). Its cume is approximately $42.9 million, heading for the low $70 millions.
"I thought it was going to be 35 percent-40% off and it's pretty much in that ballpark," Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said Sunday morning. "It's not crossing over (to suburban audiences) to the extent that we hoped for. The big grosses are still the big urban markets, primarily ethnic audiences."
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13-rated action thriller "Gone In 60 Seconds" continued sliding in its third weekend, down two pegs to fourth place with a less sexy estimated $9.5 million (-36 percent) at 3,089 theaters (+40 theaters; $3,085 per theater). Its cume is approximately $68.9 million.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 comedy "Big Momma's House" was still showing good legs in its fourth week, down two notches to fifth place with an estimated $8.7 million (-25 percent) at 2,846 theaters (+3 theaters; $3,057 per theater). Its cume is approximately $85.4 million, on its way to $90-100 million.
Paramount's blockbuster "Mission: Impossible 2" dropped two notches to sixth place in its fifth week with a less thrilling estimated $8.0 million (-30 percent) at 3,245 theaters (-388 theaters; $2,465 per theater).
The PG-13 rated action adventure sequel's cume is approximately $189.3 million, heading for $210-220 million in domestic theaters. The first "Mission" did $181 million domestically.
DreamWorks' R-rated action adventure "Gladiator" rose one peg to seventh place in its eighth week with a still solid estimated $4.0 million (-25 percent) at 1,812 theaters (-454 theaters; $2,208 per theater). Its cume is approximately $165.6 million, heading for about $180 million in domestic theaters.
"Gladiator" is half owned by Universal, which is releasing it internationally. Its international cume cracked $300 million this weekend, a spokesman for Universal said Sunday morning. Its opening in France this weekend, he said, was the last of its major territory openings, bringing the film's international total to about $145 million.
20th Century Fox's PG-rated animated feature "Titan A.E." plunged three orbits in its second week with a disappointing estimated $3.7 million (-60 percent) at 2,768 theaters (+34 theaters; $1,337 per theater). Its cume is approximately $16.9 million.
Buena Vista/Disney's PG-rated computer animated feature "Dinosaur" fell two notches to ninth place in its sixth weekend with a dull estimated $3.5 million (-41 percent) at 2,248 theaters (-690 theaters; $1,535 per theater). Its cume is approximately $127.0 million, heading for about $140 million in domestic theaters.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Dimension Films' PG-13-rated teen appeal romantic comedy "Boys and Girls," down four pegs in its second week with a less attractive estimated $3.1 million (-56 percent) at 1,989 theaters (+6 theaters; $1,558 per theater). Its cume is approximately $14.0 million.