Moviegoers elected "Hannibal" to another term in first place over the four-day Presidents weekend.
The R-rated thriller from MGM and Universal in association with Dino De Laurentiis held on to the top spot with a sizzling estimated $36.5 million (-40%) at 3,238 theaters (+8 theaters; $11,272 per theater). Its cume is approximately $110.4 million.
(All of today's weekend estimates are for four days. For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, MGM estimated "Hannibal" at $30.0 million.)
"Hannibal" had the highest per-theater average for any film playing last weekend.
"It's down 40% for the four days and we were looking for 35-40%, so it's pretty damn good," MGM worldwide distribution president Larry Gleason said Sunday morning.
"I think $200 million's in the bag now."
In its international release through Universal, "Hannibal" opened Friday in the U.K. (via UIP) to very strong first place business. Universal said Sunday morning that it estimated the film's weekend gross at $9-9.5 million, making it the biggest opening ever in the U.K. for UIP, the international distribution company in which Universal and Paramount are partners.
"Hannibal" also opened in first place in Australia last Thursday with an estimated $2.5 million.
In Germany, where it also opened Thursday (via Tobis Studiocanal), it was number one with an estimated $6.3 million, making it the biggest opening in that territory for an R-rated film.
"Hannibal" also opened the previous weekend in Italy (via Filmauro) and has taken in an impressive estimated $9.5 million to date.
Driven by "Hannibal," the domestic marketplace expanded significantly for the four days, setting a new record for Presidents weekend of about $147 million.
Gleason noted that business was very strong and up sharply from last year (up about 16% from $126.3 million a year ago). While "Hannibal" was clearly the weekend's blockbuster success story, he pointed out that, "The three Academy (best picture nominees) -- 'Traffic,' 'Crouching Tiger' and 'Chocolat' -- all picked up nicely."
"Hannibal's" 1991 predecessor film "The Silence of the Lambs" grossed $130.7 million in its domestic release via Orion Pictures and did about $142 million in international theaters.
Directed by Ridley Scott and produced by Dino De Laurentiis, Martha De Laurentiis and Ridley Scott, "Hannibal" stars Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore. Its screenplay by David Mamet and Steven Zaillian is based on the novel by Thomas Harris.
Where is "Traffic" heading in domestic theaters? "I think that $90 million is in the bag," Foley replied. "We're hoping for $100 million. If the picture holds up significantly, meaning that we take 30% drops over the next couple of weeks, and then it goes back up as you get into that momentum prior to the Academy Awards, which all these pictures do, we could get $100 million the week of the awards. So it's got a shot at $100 million.
"The thing that's really significant about this weekend's business is that it indicated that people's interest is firmly fixed on the film, which could really deliver the picture to that ($100 million) mark. It's real exciting."
Directed by Steven Soderbergh, "Traffic" stars Michael Douglas, Don Cheadle, Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Columbia and Intermedia Films' PG-13-rated romantic comedy "Wedding Planner" slid five slots to seventh place in its fourth week with a still-sexy estimated $7.0 million (-14%) at 2,354 theaters (-372 theaters; $2,974 per theater). Its cume is approximately $47.3 million.
(For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, Columbia estimated "Wedding" at $5.7 million.)
Directed by Adam Shankman, "Planner" stars Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey.
Miramax's PG-13-rated, Oscar-contending romantic comedy drama "Chocolat," which was 10th last week, went wider and tied for eighth place in its 10th week with a still-encouraging estimated $6.0 million at 1,481 theaters (+333 theaters; $4,051 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34.4 million.
(For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, Miramax estimated "Chocolat" at $4.8 million.)
"Chocolat" is nominated for five Oscars, including best picture.
"It's a nice combination to have a movie with great word of mouth get bolstered by getting an Academy Award nomination for best picture," Miramax senior vice president, marketing David Kaminow said Sunday morning. "It's a nice combination, and it shows in the increase in gross."
Directed by Lasse Hallstrom, "Chocolat" stars Juliette Binoche, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Lena Olin and Johnny Depp.
20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated drama "Cast Away," which was fifth last weekend, tied for eighth place in its ninth week with an okay estimated $6.0 million (+10%) at 2,249 theaters (-98 theaters; $2,668 per theater). Its cume is approximately $217.5 million.
(For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, Fox estimated "Cast" at $5.0 million.)
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, "Cast Away" stars Tom Hanks and Helen Hunt.
Rounding out the Top Ten this week was Columbia's PG-13-rated comedy "Saving Silverman" from Village Roadshow Pictures in association with NPV Entertainment, down seven pegs in its second week with a dull estimated $5.1 million (-35%) at 2,467 theaters (theater count unchanged; $2,067 per theater). Its cume is approximately $14.5 million.
Directed by Dennis Dugan, "Silverman" stars Jason Biggs, Steve Zahn, Jack Black and Amanda Peet.
(For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, Columbia estimated "Silverman" at $4.3 million.)
OTHER OPENINGS Sony Pictures Classics R-rated drama "Pollock" went into wider release this weekend, but no details were available Sunday morning for four-day estimates. Three-day estimates put it at $0.24 million at 14 theaters ($17,143 per theater). Its cume through Sunday is approximately $0.33 million.
"Pollock" received Oscar nominations for best actor (Ed Harris) and best supporting actress (Marcia Gay Harden).
Directed by Ed Harris, "Pollock" stars Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden.
SNEAK PREVIEWS There were no national sneak previews this weekend.
EXPANSIONS On the expansion front, this weekend saw Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13-rated dark comedy "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" add theaters in its ninth week with an okay estimated $3.4 million (+2%) at 847 theaters (+12 theaters; $4,014 per theater). Its cume is approximately $25.7 million heading for $30 million-plus in domestic theaters.
(For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, Buena Vista estimated "Brother" at $2.8 million.)
A Buena Vista spokeswoman pointed out that this weekend saw "O Brother" overtake the gross for the Coen Brothers' "Fargo," which did $24.6 million in domestic theaters in 1996.
"Brother" received Oscar nominations for best screenplay and cinematography.
Directed by Joel Coen and written by Ethan Coen & Joel Coen, it stars George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson and John Goodman.
Fox Searchlight Pictures went wider with its R-rated drama "Quills" in its 13th week with a calm estimated $0.33 million at 201 theaters (+165 theaters; $1,617 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.2 million.
(For the three-day period Friday through Sunday, Fox Searchlight estimated "Quills" at $0.27 million.)
Directed by Philip Kaufman, "Quills" stars Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Caine.
"Quills" received three Oscar nominations, including best actor (Geoffrey Rush).
USA Films' PG-rated drama "In the Mood For Love" added theaters in its third week with a still-attractive estimated $0.24 million at 24 theaters (+18 theaters; $9,950 per theater). Its cume is approximately $0. million.
Written and directed by Wong Kar-Wai, "Love" stars Tony Leung and Maggie Chung.
Universal went wider with its R-rated drama "Billy Elliot" from Universal Focus in its 19th week. "Billy," which received three Oscar nominations last week, grossed an estimated $0.18 million at 138 theaters (+30 theaters; $1,270 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19.9 million.
Directed by Stephen Daldry, "Billy" stars Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Bell, Jamie Draven and Adam Cooper.
WEEKEND COMPARISONS Key films -- those grossing more than $500,000 for the four days -- took in approximately $146.93 million, up about 16.31% from the comparable weekend last year when key films grossed $126.33 million.
This weekend's four-day key film gross should not be compared to the previous weekend this year, a normal three-day weekend.
Last year, Warner Bros.' opening week of "The Whole Nine Yards" was first with $15.92 million at 2,910 theaters ($5,469 per theater); and Sony's opening week of "Hanging Up" was second with $15.71 million at 2,618 theaters ($6,001 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $31.6 million. This year, the top two films grossed an estimated $57.0 million.