'Erin Brockovich' Riding High

Roberts and costar Albert Finney in a scene from the movie "Erin Brockovich" for which she won a Best Actress Oscar in March 2001.
The Road To El Dorado faced a roadblock - Erin Brockovitch - on its route to box-office success.

With four new movies opening this weekend, including the DreamWorks animation, the Julia Roberts drama showed no signs of fatigue, crossing the finish line in first place for the third weekend in a row, reports Gail O'Neill, contributor to CBS News' The Early Show.

According to figures provided by Hollywood.com, audiences can't seem to get enough of the tough-talking legal secretary with a heart of gold, with Erin Brockovich pulling $14.2 million.

In second place despite heavy marketing and wide distribution, The Road to El Dorado was paved with $12.5 million. The Skulls, a campus thriller about a working-class stiff who joins an Ivy League secret society, cracked the number three spot with $11.4 million at the box office.

Romeo Must Die fell two spots, but is still kicking in fourth place with $9.7 million, and High Fidelity, a romantic comedy starring John Cusack as the owner of a vinyl record shop trying to sort out his love life, made enough noise to come in fifth with $6.4 million.

The fourth newcomer, Jimmy Smits' boxing picture Price of Glory, didn't even make the top 10, earning $1.2 million at the box office.

Rounding out the top 10 were American Beauty, $5.8 million; Final Destination, $5.2 million; Mission To Mars, $3.4 million; Here On Earth, and Whatever It Takes, tied at $2.4 million; and The Cider House Rules, $2.2 million.

Despite the dominance of Erin Brokovich, the big kids at DreamwWorks gave the little kids something to smile about.

It's a fun movie, says 10-year-old critic Alexandra Van Amson. "The music is good, the animation - I don't know how they do it, but they just do!"

The plot of this animated adventure about a search for for gold was too confusing for Alexandra's sister Victoria, 6, who got lost somewhere between a sword fight and a boat ride.

But their mom Wendy was hooked on the film's historical value, though she said Disney does a better job balancing screenplays for kid and adult viewers.

"The adult humor needs to be there in order to entertain the adults in the audience," Wendy says, "but I thought it was a tad too heavy-handed."

Fear was not a complaint from this family of viewers although it has been a consistent theme of real critics. The Van Amson clan, however, did raise a red flag about the racy romance between Chel and Tulio.

"I was keeping my eyes open, but it was a little too mushy," says Alexandra. Her mother admits, "Some of the sexual innuendos, I had a little bit of trouble with."

Does a ticket to El Dorado leave kids with any life lesson?

"Stick with your friends and you'll have lots of fun," says Victoria.

"I think the redeeming quality in the movie was to lear the importance of friendship," says Wendy, "as well as being true to yourself and not being too pretentious and pretending to be something that you're not."

Orginally written and produced as a PG-13 film, it was switch to a PG rating at the last minute. The third animated film produced by DreamWorks, El Dorado, features the voices of Kevin Kline, Kenneth Brannagh and Rosie Perez and the music of Elton John and Tim Rice.

The story of two 16th Century fortune-hunters searching for a lost city of gold played in 3,218 theaters, 315 more than Erin Brockovich.

The return "was slightly below what we expected," admitted Jim Tharp, DreamWorks' head of distribution. "But on the positive side, we have about four weeks before any other family movies open."

"Coming into a market place that has very few options for family films right now, I thought this film would perform more strongly," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc., which tracks the box office. "It just didn't capture the audience it needed to capture."

DreamWorks did have continued good news with American Beauty, last weekend's big Oscar winner, which has grossed $117 million since opening last September. The studio expanded the film to 1,990 theaters, up 328.

©2000 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Reuters contributed to this report