''Finding Nemo'' makes a splash at No. 1 -- In its first week, the Disney/Pixar film became the biggest opening ever for an animated movie

By Dave Karger
Updated May 30, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Finding Nemo: PIXAR/Disney

Fish were the most popular item on the box office menu this weekend, as ”Finding Nemo” swam straight into the record books with a $70.6 million debut, according to studio estimates.

”Nemo”’s big splash makes it the biggest opening ever for an animated film, beating the $62.6 million ”Monsters, Inc.” earned in 2001. Both films were produced by Pixar and released by Disney. That team also boasts the No. 3 animated opening, ”Toy Story 2.” Obviously families were eager to support the first quality kid-friendly film of the summer season. Fantastic reviews and standout voice performances from Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks certainly helped. With strong follow-up weekends, ”Nemo” could top $200 million.

After premiering last weekend, Jim Carrey’s comedy ”Bruce Almighty” fell 48 percent from the three-day portion of the Memorial Day holiday to $35.6 million. Though it’s earned $135.7 million after only 10 days, the drop is significant and indicates that ”Bruce” may top out before reaching the $200 million mark.

Third place, meanwhile, went to the new thriller ”The Italian Job,” starring Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, and Charlize Theron, with $19.3 million. That figure pales in comparison to last summer’s similarly themed ”The Bourne Identity,” which premiered with $27.1 million. Apparently Matt Damon is a bigger draw than fellow Bostonian Wahlberg.

”The Matrix Reloaded” took another huge dive, plummeting 58 percent to only $15 million in its third weekend, bringing its total to $232.1 million. The Keanu Reeves sequel might not be able to reach $300 million after all. And Eddie Murphy’s ”Daddy Day Care” felt the effect of ”Finding Nemo,” dropping 51 percent to $6.8 million, good enough for fifth place. After four weeks, it’s grossed $82 million.

The week’s other new release, the horror thriller ”Wrong Turn,” managed a seventh place debut with only $5 million, about what was expected for the scarefest, which stars Eliza Dushku, Desmond Harrington, and Jeremy Sisto. The moral of the weekend: Without fish, you’re nothing.