The ''Silence of the Lambs'' sequel scores a record breaking $58 million debut

By Lori Reese
Updated February 13, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST
Hannibal (Movie - 2001)
Credit: Hannibal: Phil Bray

Audiences revealed their insatiable appetite for ”Hannibal” this weekend, as the long awaited sequel to 1991’s ”Silence of the Lambs” topped the box office with an estimated $58 million. The latest tale of Hannibal the Cannibal set a new record for an R rated feature, devouring ”Scary Movie”’s opening of $42 million last summer. Even though the ”Silence” follow up lost one of its original stars (Julianne Moore replaced Oscar winner Jodie Foster as FBI agent Clarice Starling) and its original director (”Gladiators”’ Ridley Scott replaced Jonathan Demme) industry watchers expected the $80 million feature to debut with big numbers — especially because the film’s most terrifying face, Anthony Hopkins, had returned. ”Everyone I know wants to see this movie. I wanted to see this movie,” Paul Dergarabedian, president of tracking firm Exhibitor Relations told ”By having Hopkins, the character everyone really fears and remembers, I don’t think [the loss of Foster and Demme] hurt the film.”

The remaining top five films receded into ”Hannibal”’s shadow. Jennifer Lopez’s ”The Wedding Planner” fell to No. 2 with $7.8 million, while the only other big newcomer, ”Saving Silverman” (starring Jason Biggs and Amanda Peet), debuted at No. 3 with a modest $7.4 million. ”Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (No. 4) made a little news of its own. The Mandarin language martial arts film earned another $5.1 million, bringing its total to $60 million and making it the top grossing foreign film ever. (The previous record holder was the Oscar feted ”Life Is Beautiful,” which earned $57.6 million.) The Tom Hanks survival flick ”Cast Away” rounded out the top five, reeling in another $5 million to bring its total to $209.7 million.

CRITICAL MASS Ten years of anticipation drove ”Hannibal” to a mind boggling debut weekend. But if’s readers’ poll is any indication, the gore happy sequel to the Oscar winning ”Silence” may soon lose some of its audience. Overall, readers graded the film a B, slightly lower than the critics’ average of B+. But about one third of readers were disappointed by the film, saying it was worse than they had expected. Likewise, one third said they definitely would not want to witness the movie — and its now famous brain frying scenes — again.

In contrast, this weekend’s other big newcomer, ”Saving Silverman,” was a pleasant surprise for’s readers. Overall, voters gave the film a B, far higher than the critics’ average grade of F. A sizable 56 percent of voters said the Biggs/ Peet comedy was better than they expected, and more than half said they would recommend the movie to friends. Of course, they might not say the same thing about ”Saving Silverman II.”

Hannibal (Movie - 2001)

  • Movie
  • R
  • 131 minutes
  • Ridley Scott