''Changing Lanes'' has the sweetest weekend. The Ben Affleck thriller tops the Cameron Diaz romantic comedy

By Dave Karger
April 14, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

In the battle between the guy movie and the chick flick, the men won handily. The thriller ”Changing Lanes,” starring Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson, topped the box office this weekend with $17.6 million, according to studio estimates. The film, about two New Yorkers who try to make each other’s lives miserable after a fender-bender, had several things going for it: strong reviews, a fascinating concept, and wide demographic appeal — simply put, Affleck drew women while Jackson brought in African-American audiences. All those factors helped the film easily beat its two female-driven competitors.

Second place went to Jodie Foster’s hit drama ”Panic Room,” which slid one notch after two weeks at the top slot. Benefiting from positive audience reviews, the study in claustrophobia fell 39 percent to $11.3 million. Surprisingly, that figure put it ahead of Cameron Diaz’s new romantic comedy, ”The Sweetest Thing,” which managed a $10 million debut, a bit lower than analysts’ expectations. Though studio ads sold the film, about a hottie (Diaz) who has trouble wooing her new crush, as a kind of ”There’s Something Else About Mary,” audiences didn’t bite in huge numbers. If the numbers hold, however, ”Sweetest” will be Diaz’s fifth double-digit opening in a row, which is still pretty, um, sweet.

Rounding out the top five were two family favorites that have shown tiny drops from week to week. Fox’s computer animated ”Ice Age” topped the $150 million mark, falling 36 percent to $8.7 million in its fifth week. And Dennis Quaid’s word-of-mouth baseball hit ”The Rookie” slipped 31 percent to $8.1 million, bringing its three-week total to an impressive $45.4 million.

That pushed Ashley Judd’s courtroom drama ”High Crimes” out of the top five in only its second week, as it fell 43 percent to $8 million. And Bill Paxton’s horror thriller ”Frailty,” which opened in semi-wide release, grossed only $4.2 million, tying for eighth place with the second weekend of ”National Lampoon’s Van Wilder.” Now, that’s scary.

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