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'Passion' Still Drawing Crowds

Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" retained its crown at the box office this weekend. The film grossed $51.4 million in its second weekend to remain the top movie, racing past the $200 million mark in just 12 days, according to studio estimates released Sunday.

Warner Bros. "Starsky & Hutch," an update of the 1970s TV show starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson as buddy cops hunting a cocaine dealer, finished a distant second, debuting with $29.05 million.

Disney's "Hidalgo," which stars Viggo Mortensen as an Old West cowboy who becomes the first Westerner invited to compete in a horse race across the Arabian desert, was third, grossing $19.6 million.

"I've never seen anything quite like `The Passion,"' said Disney head of distribution Chuck Viane. "To have two other movies come in and open as strongly as they did in the face of a steamroller, you can't complain."

"The Passion," Gibson's bloody re-enactment of Christ's crucifixion, has grossed $212 million so far in the United States and Canada. The movie is expected to top $300 million, said Bob Berney, president of Newmarket Films, the independent distributor Gibson hired to release "The Passion" after Hollywood studios passed on it.

The film, which stars Jim Caviezel as Christ, held up strongly, with receipts down just 39 percent from its huge opening weekend of $83.8 million. Movies debuting to such high numbers often drop 50 percent or more in their second weekends.

"The Passion" propelled Hollywood to a second straight weekend of rising revenues after a prolonged slump. The top 12 movies grossed $131.5 million, up 39 percent from the same weekend last year.

The Academy Awards gave a solid bounce to best-picture winner "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," which climbed back into the top 10 with $3.2 million, raising its total to $368.3 million.

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

  1. "The Passion of the Christ," $51.4 million.
  2. "Starsky & Hutch," $29.05 million.
  3. "Hidalgo," $19.6 million.
  4. "50 First Dates," $7.7 million.
  5. "Twisted," $5 million.
  6. "Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen," $4 million.
  7. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," $3.2
    million.
  8. "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights," $2.85 million.
  9. "Miracle," $2.6 million.
  10. "Monster," $2.25 million.