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Surprise: <i>Grinch</i> Beats Russell Crowe

Despite two highly promoted new movies, theatergoers stayed with The Grinch over the weekend. "Nobody is more surprised than me," said CBS News Entertainment Contributor Laurie Hibberd in Box Office Plus.

CBS News Early Show Co-Anchor Jane Clayson agreed, pointing out that she'd be content to watch Russell Crowe "read the phone book."

"The director [of Grinch] must really be in the holiday spirit," Hibberd said.

Here are the numbers according to

  • The Grinch earned another $18 million over the weekend, giving the comedy a total take of $195 million in just four weeks.
  • The mountain climbing film Vertical Limit didn't exactly scale new heights. But it came in second with a respectable $16 million.
  • Proof of Life was third with a $10 million finish.
  • Unbreakable and Dungeons and Dragons rounded out the top five.
Hibberd said The Grinch is doing so well because "It's a movie kids are dying to see and parents don't mind seeing. The last time we had something like that was when Home Alone opened around Christmastime. That was a record-breaking 12 weeks." The fact that Grinch has Jim Carrey in it doesn't hurt either.

Grinch is poised to overtake Mission Impossible as top box office movie of the year. "It's going to be over $200 million by next weekend and go to $250 million possibly," said Hibberd.

She liked this weekend's number two movie, Vertical Limit.

"The real star is the action and the scenery," said Hibberd. "So, when you have that happening...I think men are going to love it. Women are going to love it just to see Chris O'Donnell. They try to put a soft love story in it, too. Really, the action is key."

The movie is partially based on the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster that was written about in Into Thin Air.

"This movie actually was started to be written before that, but they did incorporate some elements of it," said Hibberd.

One such element was based on the real-life experience of Rob Hall, the famous climber. When he realized he was going to die on the mountain, he radioed his wife and told her how much he loved her. Elements of that story were put into Vertical Limit.

According to Hibberd, some people are whispering that perhaps the reason Proof of Life only came in third is because it has the "stench" of a broken marriage attached to it (Meg Ryan and Denis Quaid have separated). But Hibberd disagrees.

"I don't think Americans are that judgmental," said Hibberd. "Fifty percent of American marriages end in divorce. I don't think they'll say, 'Oh, I wouldn't see that movie with Meg Ryan in it.' It's not something people were going to rush out and see. It's an adult movie. Adults don' rush out and stand in line."

Although the off-screen relationship between Russell Crowe and Meg Ryan gave Proof of Life a lot of extra attention, it didn't help it in the long run.

"They had love scenes in the film that they had shot, really steamy ones and when they did test audiences, they found the audience was confused as to who they wanted Meg to be with. The real-life love affair added to that," said Hibberd.

Bounce is another movie whose actors had been romantically involved (Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow) and it's "taking a nosedive into oblivion," said Hibberd. "It opened in fourth or fifth place and never got better."

Movies to look forward to:

  • Castaway (with Tom Hanks) opens December 22nd
  • Family Man (with Nicholas Cage)
  • What Women Want (with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt)

©2000 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report