The Rock is this week's box office champ. ''Scorpion King'' tops the Sandra Bullock thriller ''Murder by Numbers''
Michael Clarke Duncan, Dwayne ''The Rock'' Johnson
Credit: The Scorpion King: Bruce Burmelin

It’s official: North America can smell what the Rock is cooking. Premiering in his first big-screen leading role, WWF megastar Dwayne ”The Rock” Johnson powered ”The Scorpion King” to a body-slammin’ $36.2 million opening weekend, according to studio estimates. But while the debut is certainly impressive for an unproven action star, it could have been even bigger.

”Scorpion,” a prequel to the hugely successful ”Mummy” movies, opened smaller than ”The Mummy” and ”The Mummy Returns,” the latter of which grossed $68.1 million in its first three days, thanks in part to The Rock’s minor role. In fact, ”Scorpion”’s numbers aren’t that much greater than the $32.5 million ”Blade 2” racked up last month with only a fraction of the hype. Still, these figures ensure that The Rock and his arched eyebrow will be seen on the big screen again soon.

Surprisingly, second place went to ”Changing Lanes” in its second weekend. The Ben Affleck/Samuel L. Jackson thriller, benefiting from strong reviews, fell a respectable 35 percent from its $17.1 million opening last weekend, bringing its 10-day total to $32.8 million.

The main reason ”Lanes” only slipped one position is the poor showing from Sandra Bullock’s chiller ”Murder by Numbers,” which premiered with only $9.5 million, ending Bullock’s run of seven straight double-digit debuts and marking her lowest opening since ”Two If By Sea” in 1996. Hurting the film, in which Bullock plays a homicide detective tracking two teenage killers, was that it came on the heels of the women-in-peril films ”Panic Room” and ”High Crimes.” ”Numbers” did earn mostly positive reviews; perhaps audiences have simply grown tired of this type of movie for the time being.

Turning in another impressive showing was the Dennis Quaid baseball flick ”The Rookie,” which fell only 22 percent in its fourth weekend to $6.3 million, edging out ”Panic Room,” which landed in fifth place with $6.2 million. ”The Rookie” actually jumped a notch from fifth to fourth, really giving Jodie Foster and the rest of its competition something to panic about.

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Changing Lanes
  • Movie
  • 99 minutes