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'Scooby 2' Top Dog At Box Office

The Mystery Inc. ghostbusters might have to cut their budget for Scooby snacks. "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" took in $30.7 million in its opening weekend, good enough for an easy No. 1 finish but 43 percent below the $54.2 million debut the first "Scooby-Doo" managed in June 2002.

The Coen brothers' "The Ladykillers," starring Tom Hanks in a remake of the 1955 heist black comedy, premiered in second place with $13 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Kevin Smith's "Jersey Girl," with Ben Affleck as a widower raising a daughter and a cameo by Jennifer Lopez as his wife, debuted at No. 5 with $8.3 million.

"Never Die Alone," starring rapper DMX as a dead drug dealer whose life unfolds through audio tapes he left behind, opened weakly at No. 11 with $3.1 million.

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Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" held solidly at No. 3 with $12.5 million, pushing its total to $315 million. Now playing in 3,214 theaters, "The Passion" will widen by 400 to 500 cinemas this Friday, with Gibson and distributor Newmarket counting on a surge in business through Easter.

The previous weekend's top movie, "Dawn of the Dead," tumbled to fourth place with $10.3 million, lifting its 10-day total to $43.9 million.

The overall box office was up for the fifth straight weekend, with the top 12 movies grossing $109.4 million, a 26 percent increase from the same weekend last year.

"Scooby-Doo 2" reunites the computer-animated Great Dane with stars Freddie Prinze Jr., Sarah Michelle Gellar, Linda Cardellini and Matthew Lillard. Like its predecessor, "Scooby-Doo 2" received harsh reviews but managed to lure in the family crowd.

Rather than waiting for summer blockbuster season, Warner Bros. put the film out in March, a slower time at theaters, to avoid competing with its own family adventure "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" in June and "Shrek 2" in late May.

With less competition than "Scooby-Doo had in summer, the studio counts on the sequel having a longer shelf life as schools let out for Easter and spring break over the next couple of weeks, said Dan Fellman, Warner head of distribution.

"The Ladykillers" and "Jersey Girl" each played in fewer than half the number of theaters as "Scooby-Doo 2," which had a healthy $9,283 average in 3,312 cinemas. Playing in 1,583 theaters, "The Ladykillers" averaged $8,214, while "Jersey Girl" did $5,462 in 1,520 cinemas.

Buoyed by Hanks' star power, "The Ladykillers" had the best opening ever for a Coen brothers flick, topping the $12.5 million debut of their "Intolerable Cruelty" last fall.

It was a solid opening for "Jersey Girl," which appears to have dodged the taint of last summer's Affleck-Lopez bomb "Gigli." In just one weekend, "Jersey Girl" surpassed the $6 million total domestic gross of "Gigli," which hit theaters amid the tabloid frenzy over former sweethearts Affleck and Lopez's wedding plans.

In limited release, Nicole Kidman's "Dogville" opened well with $90,000 at nine theaters in New York City and Los Angeles. Directed by Lars Von Trier, the three-hour "Dogville" stars Kidman as a fugitive who finds refuge — then subjugation — among the narrow-minded residents of a Rocky Mountain town.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed," $30.7 million.

2. "The Ladykillers," $13 million.

3. "The Passion of the Christ," $12.5 million.

4. "Dawn of the Dead," $10.3 million.

5. "Jersey Girl," $8.3 million.

6. "Taking Lives," $6.5 million.

7. "Starsky & Hutch," $6.3 million.

8. "Hidalgo," $5.43 million.

9. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," $5.42 million.

10. "Secret Window," $5.4 million.

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