Moviegoers liked Jennifer Lopez as "The Wedding Planner," making the romantic comedy No. 1 at the box office, as studios challenged Sunday's Super Bowl and expected to draw more filmgoers this year than last.
Despite the allure of football's main event, studios reported a strong showing over the weekend, grossing an estimated $76 million, an increase of 73% over last year's Super Bowl weekend take, an industry analyst said.
"Last year was a lot weaker than this year. The lineup of women's films in the marketplace serving as counter-programming to the Super Bowl was really effective," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.
Moviegoers also may have crowded theaters earlier, leaving Sunday free for football, said Linda Ditrinco, senior vice president of USA Films national sales.
"We kind of analyzed it internally. We noticed Friday and Saturday make up for the Sunday drops. People are still going to the movies," Ditrinco said.
"The Wedding Planner," starring Lopez--always a planner, never a bride, who falls for a groom-to-be--took in $14 million its debut weekend.
The film bounced "Save the Last Dance" to No. 2 from the top spot, which the hip-hop feature had held since its debut two weeks ago.
A Columbia Pictures spokesman said "The Wedding Planner" drew large numbers of women.
"The Super Bowl is obviously a dynamic in the marketplace, but this film has a very strong appeal to women, both over and under 25. It gives them an alternative," said Blaise Noto, Columbia's executive vice president of publicity.
The bank-robbing cheerleaders film "Sugar & Spice" debuted in the fifth spot. It opened with an estimated $6.02 million, or $2,802 per screen.
"Cast Away," starring Tom Hanks as a modern Robinson Crusoe, slipped to third from second place, but stayed strong. So far, "Cast Away" has made $194 million.
"Right now it's on a path to $215 million. Then with the Academy Awards, though you can't tell what it will do, it could pop," predicted Richard Myerson, executive vice president and general sales manager for Twentieth Century Fox.
USA Films' drug-war drama "Traffic" pulled in $6.48 million, slipping one spot to No. 4. The film has gained $56.3 million since wide release earlier this month.
The martial arts film "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" continued to climb, moving to No. 6 from eighth. Ticket sales were estimated for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.
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Estimated weekend grosses (in millions):
1. "The Wedding Planner": $14
2. "Save the Last Dance": $10
3. "Cast Away": $8.93
4. "Traffic": $6.48
5. "Sugar & Spice": $6.02
6. "Crouching Tiger . . .": $5.07
7. (tie) "Snatch" : $4.8
8. (tie) "Finding Forrester": $4.8
9. "What Women Want": $4.3
10. "Miss Congeniality": $3.96