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'Mile's Ahead of the Rest

Slim Shady knocked fellow Detroit native Tim Allen from the top box office spot this weekend when his debut film "8 Mile" took in in $54.5 million.

It was the second-highest opening for this weekend for a non R-rated film behind "Hannibal," which debuted last year with $58 million. Allen's "The Santa Clause 2" took in $24. 8 million, down only 15 percent from last week.

The triumph of "8 Mile" follows the No. 1 debut of the film's soundtrack this month and the chart-topping success of the singer's latest album, "The Eminem Show."

In "8 Mile," Eminem plays a young white singer struggling in the black-dominated hip-hop scene of Detroit's bleak Eight Mile area, where Eminem grew up.

Unlike many singers aiming for big-screen success, Eminem
benefited from a collaboration with top-notch filmmakers. Directed
by Curtis Hanson ("L.A. Confidential," "Wonder Boys") and
produced by Brian Grazer (an Academy Award winner for last year's
"A Beautiful Mind"), "8 Mile" earned solid overall reviews and
good notices for Eminem and his co-stars, including Kim Basinger.

Mekhi Phifer, who gained notice in "Clockers" and "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer," offers a strong performance as the rapper's best friend "Future." Only 27, Phifer tells The Early Show's entertainment contributor Laurie Hibberd he already knows the secret to his film success.

"Saying no. I mean I've done 21 films in eight years and I said no more times than I've done films. You got to know in which direction you're going," he says. He almost said no yet again when asked to work with Eminem, long a lightning rod for controversy.

"I just felt like Hollywood was capitalizing on his popularity and I didn't know how passionate he was about acting. So I didn't really know until I met him. Until I went down, flew to Detroit. Met him. Loved the cat right off the top and then we read and I loved his work," Phifer says.

The role gave Phifer a chance to display his own rapping skills. "I had so much fun with that. You know all of that stuff was just off-the-cuff improv. You can't script that stuff that I said up there," he says.

Phifer says that it's not only people from the Motor City who will appreciate Slim Shady's acting debut. "I think it's going to be big. I think the performance, the story line, everything, Eminem's intrigue. It's just going to all come to a head in this film. It's a feel-good movie."

The movie's huge opening also indicates that Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers III and who also is known by his rap persona Slim Shady, has gained more mainstream acceptance after critics branded him a homophobe and misogynist for the violent, obscenity-laced lyrics on his previous best-selling records.

Universal, which distributed the movie, said women made up 53
percent of the audience. And while 69 percent of the audience was
younger than 25, a fair number of older adults showed up, the
studio said.

"A lot more parents are interested in it than I would have
thought," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's head of distribution. "In
my neighborhood, we went to a theater nearby and quite frankly, I
saw parents in their 40s and 50s going to see the film with their
teens."

Results for "8 Mile" far exceeded the studio's expectations.
As late as Friday morning, Rocco said she had been hoping for an
opening-weekend gross of $25 million to $30 million. Playing in a relatively modest 2,470 theaters, "8 Mile" averaged a whopping $22,050 a cinema.

The weekend's only other new wide release, Brian De Palma's
crime thriller "Femme Fatale," opened weakly at No. 9 with $2.8
million, averaging $2,655 in 1,066 theaters.

Todd Haynes' 1950s-era melodrama "Far From Heaven," starring
Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid, opened big in limited release. The
film grossed $207,000 in six theaters for an impressive $34,518
average.

Eminem's big debut and strong results for holdover films lifted the
overall box office. The top 12 movies grossed $133.8 million, up 15
percent over the same weekend last year.

Here are the numbers according to Hollywood.com:

  1. "8 Mile," $54.5 million.
  2. "The Santa Clause 2," $24.8 million
  3. "The Ring," $16 million
  4. "I Spy," $9 million
  5. "Jackass: The Movie," $7.2 million
  6. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," $5.8 million
  7. "Sweet Home Alabama," $3.8 million
  8. "Ghost Ship," $3.2 million
  9. "Femme Fatale," $2.8 million
  10. "Punch-Drunk Love," $2.6 million