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''Panic Room'' sets a box office record

”Panic Room” sets a box office record. But Robin Williams’ ”Death to Smoochy” may come sooner than he’d like

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Panic Room
Panick Room: Merrick Morton

So much for March going out like a lamb. For the third weekend in a row, a movie opened with more than $30 million, as Jodie Foster’s ”Panic Room” followed on the heels of ”Ice Age” and ”Blade 2” to debut with $30.2 million, according to studio estimates.

”Panic,” Foster’s first film in two and a half years, easily topped the actress’ previous personal best, ”Contact,” which grossed $20.7 million in its first three days in 1997. Audience anticipation for the thriller, directed by fan favorite David Fincher, combined with Foster’s star power, resulted in the strong opening. Positive word of mouth could help the drama pass the $100 million mark by the end of its run.

Meanwhile, ”Ice Age” became the first film released in 2002 to reach that milestone, as it held on to the No. 2 slot, slipping 38 percent in its third weekend with another $18.6 million, bringing its total to an impressive $117.3 million. By contrast, fellow computer-animated hits ”Shrek” and ”Monsters, Inc.” were up to $148.4 million and $156.3 million at this point in their respective releases, though those films came out in the bigger summer and holiday seasons. Look for ”Ice” to cool off with more than $150 million and a likely slot in next year’s Best Animated Feature Oscar race.

Third place went to Dennis Quaid’s new crowd-pleaser, ”The Rookie,” the true story of a high school teacher who makes it as a major league baseball pitcher. The G-rated family film capitalized on its positive buzz with $15.8 million. That pushed last week’s No. 1, ”Blade 2,” back to fourth. The Wesley Snipes thriller plummeted 59 percent to $13.2 million.

Rounding out the top five was the teen sci-fi flick ”Clockstoppers,” which managed an okay $10.1 million in its opening weekend. But the big flop of the weekend was definitely ”Death to Smoochy,” the Robin Williams black comedy exploring the dark side of children’s television. Despite the promising combo of Williams, Edward Norton, and director/star Danny DeVito, ”Smoochy” tanked with only $4.3 million, thanks to a per-theater average that couldn’t even top $2,000. Let’s hope Williams’ two other edgy 2002 releases, ”Insomnia” and ”One Hour Photo,” fare much better.

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