"The Hulk" earned a record-breaking $62.6 million to finish in first place. "Finding Nemo" slipped to second, earning a respectable $20.5 million dollars, and "2 Fast 2 Furious" finished third this week with $10.2 million dollars, breaking the $100 million barrier after only three weeks in theaters.
The weekend's other new wide releases opened quietly. Rob Reiner's romantic comedy "Alex & Emma," starring Kate Hudson and Luke Wilson, debuted at No. 7 with $6.2 million.
"From Justin to Kelly," a romance starring "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini, opened at No. 11 with only $2.9 million.
"The Hulk" had the highest gross ever for a June opening, surpassing the previous record of $54.9 million for "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." But taking today's higher admission prices into account, "Austin Powers" sold slightly more tickets in its opening weekend than "The Hulk."
"The Hulk," starring Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly and Nick Nolte, was directed by Ang Lee, best known for "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." Many critics credited Lee with bringing a deeper sense of brooding character to the movie than other comic-book adaptations have.
Long before computer-generated special effects brought this Hulk to life, body builder Lou Ferrigno was able to captivate viewers playing the character on the '70s TV show. He says he isn't threatened one bit by this bigger Hulk.
Ferrigno says, "I don't care how many computer generateds they have. I'm still the only live -ction Hulk, the only one that can play the Hulk. He can't sign autographs; he can't shake hands. So basically, I have to do that for him. And I'm happy to be in the movie."
And so are Hulk fans. Audiences across the country applaud when Ferrigno comes on screen. But getting the cameo in the movie wasn't easy.
He says, "I worked for 15 years to get into the film. I went to auditions to play one of the helicopter pilots, but then Ang Lee decided he wanted a part for me in the film. I had a great time being on the set. And I enjoyed seeing the film."
The original "The Incredible Hulk" TV series ran for four years in the late '70s and early '80s, but its cult status gave Ferrigno an identity he still has today.
He says, "When I travel, --I fly a lot -- stewardesses and women come up and people say to me, 'You know, I love the show. I'm so happy to be with you. I'm so happy to get to talk to you. I want to hold your hand, you were my favorite hero.'"
He adds, "I know everybody is going to want to go see 'The Hulk.' Because you've got to remember one thing, if it wasn't for the series, this would never happen. It's because of the series that led to this."
Ferrigno knows audiences will be wowed by this new and improved Hulk, but hopes they'll enjoy it on a deeper level, too.
He says, "Appreciate the passion, the power because he's the ultimate character. And knowing that they had a good time watching it. And they just love the Hulk, especially the power, the size and the manly quality about him."
Distributor Universal Studios said the opening-weekend audience was evenly split between people under and over 25, as the movie drew the young action-flick crowd as well as adults who remember the comic book and "Incredible Hulk" TV series.
Despite the June record, revenue for "The Hulk" came in well below that of last month's Marvel Comics adaptation, "X2: X-Men United," which grossed $85.6 million in its opening weekend.
"The Hulk" did exceed the numbers for the first "X-Men" movie, which opened with $54.5 million.
"The Hulk" continues a string of comic-book successes. Last year, "Spider-Man" opened with a record $114.8 million debut weekend, while other hits include "Daredevil" and the "Blade" movies. Coming next year are a "Spider-Man" sequel and "The Punisher," also based on Marvel comics.
"The comic-book genre seems to be one of the most consistent performers," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "Audiences are pretty satisfied with what they're seeing, and they keep going back. I don't know if that'll last forever, but it emboldens the creative types at studios to keep making these."
Universal has just released the original Hulk series on DVD and Lou Ferrigno has a book coming out in July called "My Incredible Life As The Hulk."
The following are the numbers according to Hollywood.com:
- "The Hulk," $62.6 million.
- "Finding Nemo," $20.5 million.
- "2 Fast 2 Furious," $10.3 million.
- "Bruce Almighty," $10 million.
- "The Italian Job," $7.2 million.
- "Rugrats Go Wild," $6.7 million.
- "Alex & Emma," $6.2 million.
- "Hollywood Homicide," $5.8 million.
- "Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd," $4.3 million.
- "The Matrix Reloaded," $4.05 million.