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''The Cell'' tops the box office

The Jennifer Lopez thriller scares up $17.2 mil, while Spike Lee’s Kings bow at No. 2

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Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Lopez, ...

The image of a rubber suit clad Jennifer Lopez penetrated the subconscious of more than a few fans this weekend, as ”The Cell” scored the top position at the box office. The psychological thriller scared up $17.2 million, according to studio estimates — a higher take than distributor New Line had initially forecast. The opening marks a successful feature debut for television commercial and video director Tarsem Singh, who won an MTV award for his contribution to R.E.M.’s glossy ”Losing My Religion” video. David Tuckerman, New Line’s head of distribution, credited ”The Cell”’s strong performance to the film’s slick style and its charismatic leading actress: ”Visually, it’s a stunning picture, and it’s wildly inventive,” he told the AP. ”And Jennifer Lopez is a star. It’s those ingredients that did it.”

Spike Lee’s ”Kings of Comedy” (No. 2) may have lacked some of ”Cell”’s titillating ingredients, but the combined forces of comics Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Bernie Mac, and Cedric the Entertainer scored a healthy $11.7 million at the box office. Lee’s documentary style take on the live comedy tour proved a bigger winner on average — racking up $13,813 per screen in 847 cinemas, compared to ”Cell”’s $7,134 take in 2,411 locations. Familiar titles occupied the rest of the top 5. Clint Eastwood’s ”Space Cowboys” fell from second to third place, earning about $9.9 million, while ”The Replacements” (No. 4) and ”What Lies Beneath” (No. 5) scored $7.5 mil and $7.1 mil, respectively. Meanwhile, the biggest box office losers were ”Hollow Man,” which tumbled from first to seventh place, with $6.4 mil, and the critically maligned ”Autumn in New York,” which swooned from fourth place to eighth with an anemic $5.7 million.

CRITICAL MASS

The Cell” may have earned big bucks at the box office this weekend, but it didn’t earn a lot of enthusiastic applause from EW.com’s readers. Overall, voters scored the Lopez thriller a B-. Critics have yet to weigh in with their grades, but stylized, light on narrative features like ”The Cell” don’t usually find much favor with mainstream reviewers. (EW film critic Lisa Schwarzbaum called director Singh’s approach ”style at the expense of substance” in a recent Hot Topic.) More tellingly, only 15 percent of readers said they would return to theaters to see Lopez endure another trip into the mind of a serial murderer (Vincent D’Onofrio), and a mere 32 percent said that they would recommend the experience to friends.

Meanwhile, ”Kings Of Comedy” was favored with far more approving chuckles. Overall, readers graded the film a B+ (A bit higher than the critics’ average score of B-), and 67 percent of voters said it was far better than they had expected. Moreover, ”Kings” should reign in the top 5 films much longer than ”Cell,” if EW.com’s readers have anything to say about it. Some 60 percent said it was ”very likely” that they would see the tour film again, while a whopping 80 percent said they would recommend the movie to friends. Maybe next time, New Line will consider a different spec for Lopez: installing her as queen in the court of the ”Kings” of movie comedy.

To vote on these and other current movies, visit our Critical Mass Movie Poll.