''8 Mile'' trounces box office competition -- The Eminem drama came close to becoming the biggest R-rated movie opening ever, scoring $54.5 million its first weekend
Eminem, 8 Mile
Credit: 8 Mile: Eli Reed

It’s official: Eminem is as popular as Hannibal Lecter.

No one expected the rap star’s ”8 Mile” to break ”Hannibal”’s record for the biggest R-rated movie opening ever, but few industry watchers ever thought it would be this close. According to studio estimates, ”8 Mile” premiered this weekend with a massive $54.5 million, falling only $3.5 million short of ”Hannibal”’s $58 million benchmark, set last year. EW.com’s prediction of $40 million was actually one of the more optimistic; several of the top box office predictors had the film opening in the $25 million-$35 million range.

What accounts for Em’s tremendous opening? First of all, timing. The drama, in which the star plays an aspiring rapper who has a troubled relationship with his mother (sound familiar?), debuted in theaters just days after the film’s soundtrack topped the Billboard album chart, meaning you’d have to be living without a radio not to be aware of the flick. Plus, curiosity was so high among Eminem’s fans and detractors alike, both male and female, that millions of moviegoers rushed out to see the film opening day, when it grossed a fantastic $20.9 million alone. And strong reviews for the film meant that audiences flocked to ”8 Mile” throughout the weekend.

Most impressively, even though many returning films performed well, ”8 Mile” more than doubled its closest competition. Last week’s top film, ”The Santa Clause 2,” slipped only 15 percent from its $29 million debut to $24.8 million. (Family films usually exhibit smaller declines.) The 10-day total for the Tim Allen sequel stands at $60.1 million. And the horror thriller ”The Ring” fell only 11 percent to $16.1 million (the cynic in me thinks some kids might have bought tickets to the PG-13 flick and snuck into ”8 Mile”), bringing its total to an amazing $86.2 million. A final take of $125 million seems likely.

Even the poorly received Eddie Murphy action comedy ”I Spy” didn’t fall as much as expected. Its $9 million gross this weekend was down 29 percent from last week. And ”Jackass the Movie” exhibited the largest drop in the top five, plummeting 43 percent to $7.2 million. But at least it fared better than ”Femme Fatale,” the new Brian DePalma thriller starring Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and Antonio Banderas, which opened in ninth place with only $2.8 million (the film, which debuted Wednesday, had a $3.5 million long weekend). Looks like ”Fatale” was itself fatally affected by its savage reviews.

8 Mile
  • Movie
  • 111 minutes