Monday, June 2, 2003

'Nemo' sinks 'Bruce' at box office

By Anthony Breznican
The Associated Press

The deep-sea adventure Finding Nemo hooked the top spot at the box office Sunday with an estimated $70.6 million opening weekend.

• 1. Finding Nemo, $70.6 M
• 2. Bruce Almighty, $35.6 M
• 3. The Italian Job, $19.3 M
• 4. The Matrix Reloaded, $15 M
• 5. Daddy Day Care, $6.8 M
• 6. X2: X-Men United, $5.02 M
• 7. Wrong Turn, $5.01 million
• 8. The In-Laws, $3.7 million
• 9. Down With Love, $1.6 M
• 10. Bend It Like Beckham, $1 M
The Disney-Pixar comedy, about a worrisome clownfish searching for his aquarium-trapped young son, sank the Jim Carrey God-comedy Bruce Almighty to second place with $35.6 million, according to studio estimates.

Meanwhile, the Mark Wahlberg caper remake The Italian Job opened in third place with $19.3 million, while The Matrix Reloaded continued to plunge after its spectacular debut three weeks ago, landing in fourth place with $15 million.

The horror flick Wrong Turn, starring Eliza Dushku as one of several lost teenagers hunted by woodland mutants, was the only other film to open in wide release. It earned a weak $5.01 million for seventh place.

Finding Nemo scored the biggest debut ever for an animated film, swimming past the $62 million opening for previous record-holder Monsters Inc., which also was a Disney-Pixar collaboration.

All of the companies' previous films - Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc. - opened at No. 1.

"This is as much of a sure-thing at the box office as you can get," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

The blockbuster debut of Finding Nemo is even more impressive considering many tickets sales for the family-themed movie were discounted for children or matinee shows, he added.

"The $70 million represents a lot more tickets for that G-rated film than for an R-rated film, where all the tickets reflect an adult admission price," Dergarabedian said.

That's not to say Finding Nemo lacks grown-up fans. The film collected near-unanimous praise from film critics, and Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane said demand from adult moviegoers filled many late-night screenings.

The Italian Job, a remake of the 1969 Michael Caine heist-thriller, also garnered a wealth of positive reviews and Paramount spokeswoman Nancy Kirkpatrick said the studio is hoping good word-of-mouth will help turn it into a sleeper hit over the long-run.

Many summer films open big and fade fast. Last weekend, The Matrix Reloaded shed more than 60 percent of its audience, and Bruce Almighty saw ticket sales fall by 48 percent in its second week.

The Matrix Reloaded remains the highest-grossing film of the year, however, with $232 million. The final part of the trilogy, The Matrix Revolutions, is scheduled to open in November.

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