'Lanes' Drives To Top Of Box Office

Hollywood reel bucks movie money dollars labor
"Changing Lanes," a road-rage thriller starring Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson, ended Jodie Foster's two-week reign at the North American weekend box office on Sunday, grossing an estimated $17.6 million in its first three days.

The Paramount Pictures film, which revolves around an escalating feud between two motorists, pushed Foster's "Panic Room" into second place with $11.3 million in its third weekend.

After 17 days, the Sony Pictures home-invasion thriller has rung up $74.1 million, and has a good chance of reaching $100 million, said the studio's distribution and marketing president, Jeff Blake.

"Panic Room" began its foreign run in eight countries this weekend, and was No. 1 in all of them -- Australia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Spain, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Combined ticket sales from these markets reached $5.4 million.

The "Panic Room" bow was the second-best this year in Spain and the third-best in Australia, said Blake.

About three-quarters of the audience for the R-rated "Lanes" was aged 25 and over, with the gender mix split evenly. Paramount distribution president Wayne Lewellen said the film opened at the higher end of his expectations, which ranged from $15 million to $18 million. The studio is owned by Viacom Inc. [Viacom also owns CBS.]

The top 10 contained two other new entries. Sony's "The Sweetest Thing," a raunchy comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Christina Applegate and Selma Blair, racked up $10.0 million at No. 3. The $43 million-budgeted film, whose "R" rating for strong sexual content and language kept out many kids under 17, opened on target, said Blake. Sony Pictures is a unit of Sony Corp.

"Frailty," a psychological drama marking the feature directing debut of its star, William Paxton, weighed in at No. 8 with a disappointing $4.2 million (tied with "National Lampoon's Van Wilder"). The film, which received good reviews, was released by Lions Gate Films, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Inc.

The top 12 films grossed $84 million, down 10 percent from last weekend, but up 11 percent from the year-ago period when "Spy Kids" was tops for a third weekend. If figures hold when final data are issued on Monday, the tally will mark the lowest in four weeks ($83.1 million, March 8-10).

Rounding out the top five, the hit cartoon "Ice Age" (20th Century Fox) fell one spot to No. 4 with $8.7 million in its fifth weekend. It has grossed $151.7 million to date and is on course for $175 million, said Bruce Snyder, president of distribution at the Fox Entertainment Group Inc.-owned studio.

"The Rookie," a fact-based Walt Disney Co. baseball drama starring Dennis Quaid, also fell one place, to No. 5, with $8.1 million, taking its three-week haul to $45.4 million.

In the limited release world, director Peter Bogdanovich's Hollywood murder mystery "The Cat's Meow" scratched up $110,000 from 11 screens in New York and Los Angeles.

The film is based on hearsay about events on the yacht of William Randolph Hearst in 1924, and stars Edward Herrmann as the media titan, Eddie Izzard as Charlie Chaplin and Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies.

The Lions Gate film played to an older, upscale audience, said studio distribution president Tom Ortenberg. It opens nationally on 300 screens on May 3.

And Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz," a reissue of the groundbreaking 1976 concert film starring The Band and such guests as Bob Dylan and Muddy Waters, expanded to New York and Los Angeles after opening in San Francisco last weekend. It weighed in with $34,000 from six theaters, and expands to 12 cities next weekend. It was released by United Artists, a unit of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

1. "Changing Lanes," $17.6 million.

2. "Panic Room," $11.3 million.

3. "The Sweetest Thing," $10 million.

4. "Ice Age," $8.7 million.

5. "The Rookie," $8.1 million.

6. "High Crimes," $8 million.

7. "Clockstoppers," $4.8 million.

8 (tie). "Frailty," $4.2 million.

8 (tie). "National Lampoon's Van Wilder," $4.2 million.

10. "Blade II," $4.1 million.