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Weekend Audiences Prefer to 'Panic'

Box office * The Jodie Foster thriller keeps its grip on No. 1 spot against competition from 'High Crimes,' which stars Ashley Judd.


Jodie Foster beat Ashley Judd in a battle of female thrillers.

Foster's "Panic Room" took in $18.5 million to remain the No. 1 film at the box office for the second straight weekend, while Judd's "High Crimes" premiered in second place with $15 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Among other new movies, the gross-out campus comedy "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" opened at No. 5 with $7.5 million.

The slapstick farce "Big Trouble," about a suitcase containing a nuclear bomb that becomes a magnet for a gaggle of goofy characters, became a real bomb at theaters, taking in just $3.7 million for eighth place. The movie's ensemble cast includes Tim Allen and Rene Russo.

Overall, it was another up weekend for Hollywood. The top 12 movies took in $95.7 million, a 17% increase over the same weekend a year ago.

Movie-industry revenues are running about 15% ahead of last year, when Hollywood's domestic grosses hit a record $8.4 billion.

"Panic Room," starring Foster as a single mother fighting intruders in her Manhattan brownstone, pushed its 10-day total to $58.8 million.

"It gives us hope we can reach that $100-million figure," said Jeff Blake, president of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony, which released "Panic Room."

"High Crimes" reunites "Kiss the Girls" co-stars Judd and Morgan Freeman. Judd plays an attorney menaced by a possible military cover-up when she defends her husband against charges of slaughtering civilians.

With similar audience appeal, "Panic Room" likely siphoned off potential moviegoers from "High Crimes."

"I think 'Panic Room' certainly had an effect on 'High Crimes,' given they're both female-driven movies," said Bruce Snyder, head of distribution for 20th Century Fox, which released "High Crimes." "But we're pleased with $15 million."

Playing in 3,053 theaters, "Panic Room" had a solid $6,060 average in its second weekend, compared with $5,526 in 2,717 cinemas for "High Crimes."

"Big Trouble" was among a handful of movies scheduled for release last fall but delayed because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Though it is a lighthearted comedy, "Big Trouble" has potentially touchy scenes about lax airport security and a nuclear device aboard an airplane, images that prompted distributor Disney to temporarily shelve the film.

With $30.5 million since it was reissued last month, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" is close to passing "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace" on the all-time box-office list domestically. "E.T." took in $3.3 million over the weekend to climb to $430.3 million, just $800,000 short of "Phantom Menace," No. 3 on the all-time list behind "Titanic" ($600.8 million) and the original "Star Wars" ($461 million).

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