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''Hannibal'' tops the box office

The serial killer thriller snags the No. 1 spot for a third weekend in a row

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Julianne Moore, Hannibal (Movie - 2001)
Hannibal: Phil Bray

Audiences returned for another sizable helping of Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore in ”Hannibal” this weekend. The gore and gourmet heavy sequel to ”Silence of the Lambs” topped the box office for a third week in a row with an estimated $15.8 million take. Thus far, the Ridley Scott directed film has earned a total of $128.5 million in North America, putting it on track to surpass the $130 million domestic gross of the Oscar feted ”Silence.”

While no one was surprised to see ”Hannibal” take the top spot for a third weekend in a row, analysts predict that the not so good doctor Hannibal Lecter will finally see defeat March 2 with the opening of the Julia Roberts / Brad Pitt action movie ”The Mexican.” ”This is the time of the year when everybody usually concentrates on the Oscar contenders, and opening films usually don’t do that great unless they’re of the ‘Hannibal’ caliber,” Robert Bucksbaum of box office tracking firm Reel Source told EW.com. ”We’re in the lean part of the season now.”

Lean, indeed. The Chris Rock comedy ”Down to Earth” (No. 2) came closest to surpassing ”Hannibal” with an $11.6 million. And the kid friendly ”Recess: School’s Out” (No. 3) beat this week’s only newcomer to land in the top five, the heist in Vegas flick ”3000 Miles to Graceland” (No. 4; $7.1 million). Best Picture nominee ”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” rounded out the top five with another $6.3 million in earnings. Meanwhile, the week’s other new wide release ”Monkeybone” (No. 11) debuted with a dismal $2.6 million. The high tech fantasy — starring Brendan Fraser — cost about $70 million to produce.

CRITICAL MASS

”Hannibal” may be devouring the current box office, but the EW.com’s readers poll indicates that audiences are ready to put the infamous cannibal to rest. Just about everyone wanted to see the movie once, but about 40 percent of voters reported that they definitely will not see the film again. Moreover, the date crowd will happy to have a new option like Pitt and Roberts’ ”The Mexican” on the horizon. Men and women agree about the quality of the extra gory ”Hannibal,” scoring the movie a mediocre B-.

Meanwhile, it looks like ”3000 Miles to Graceland” — which stars Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell as thieves who disguise themselves as Elvis impersonators — won’t be hanging around among the top five box office earners very long. Readers gave the movie a C+, only slightly higher than the critics’ score of C. Only 24 percent said they would recommend the heist comedy to friends and a sizable 41 percent indicated that they would not return to theaters to see Russell and Costner shake their hips again. Besides, it’s cheaper just to stay home and remember all those movies about Elvis wannabes we’ve already seen.