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''Shaft'' soars to No. 1 with a bullet

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Samuel L. Jackson, Shaft

This weekend, one gun-toting private dick owned the box office — lock, stock, and barrel. ”Shaft” debuted in the No. 1 spot with $21.1 million and a $9,029 per theater average, the highest in the top 10. The Samuel L. Jackson vehicle, based on the 1971 blaxploitation flick of the same name, demolished last week’s winner, ”Gone in 60 Seconds,” which fell to second place with $14.7 million (a hefty 45 percent drop). And the tough guy action movie earned more than the three other new releases combined: ”Titan A.E.” brought in just $9.5 million for fifth place, ”Boys and Girls” squeezed out $7 million for sixth place, and a rerelease of ”Fantasia 2000” took 11th place with $2.8 million.

The poor debut of ”Titan A.E.” might be the biggest disappointment of the summer movie season — at least since ”Battlefield Earth.” Even though most of the movie’s teenage target audience is out of school, the Twentieth Century Fox release couldn’t push either ”Mission: Impossible 2” (which earned $10.9 million for fourth place) or the critically loathed ”Big Momma’s House” (which took in $11.3 million for third place) out of the top five.

Teens decided the animated PG-rated film about a band of intergalactic riffraff struggling to save the planet was really meant for their kid siblings and stayed away in droves. Even a hip soundtrack featuring Lit, Jamiroquai, and Powerman 5000 — plus characters voiced by Matt Damon and Drew Barrymore — couldn’t turn the ”cartoons are for tikes” tide. It doesn’t look like it will be any easier for ”Titan A.E.” to lift off next weekend, either. Both Jim Carrey’s gross-out gagfest ”Me, Myself and Irene” and the heavily hyped claymation adventure ”Chicken Run” are expected to sweep up young viewers.

Of course, not all teens spent this weekend sneaking into screenings of the R-rated ”Shaft.” Both the PG-13 ”Shanghai Noon” and the R-rated ”Road Trip” are still bringing in allowance moolah and summer job dollars. The 10th-ranked ”Road” earned $3.1 million for a grand total of $57.2 million, while ”Shanghai” held strong in ninth with $3.6 million and total earnings of $45.2 million. Though neither film had a strong debut last month, both have shown surprising staying power in a field crowded with high profile summer movies.

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