'Meltdown' Keeps Box Office Competition on 'Ice'


The computer animated comedy "Ice Age: The Meltdown" continued to rule the box office in its second weekend, becoming the first 2006 release to pass the $100 million mark.

In the three-day period ending Sunday, April 9, the Fox-produced sequel pulled in an impressive $34.5 million, off by a so-so 49 percent from last weekend's record-breaking premiere. Playing in 3969 locations, "Ice Age: The Meltdown" averaged $8,692 per screen, as its cumulative box office soared to $116.4 million.

"The Meltdown" -- with vocal talent including Ray Romano, Queen Latifah and John Leguizamo" -- was barely tested by a quartet of new releases, several of which also drew decent audiences.

Despite being hidden from critics, "The Benchwarmers" -- with a comedic Legion of Doom including Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Heder -- scored a $20.5 million opening for Sony, averaging $6,261 in 3274 locations. That total was easily enough to beat the week's No. 3 film, the Antonio Banderas dancing drama "Take the Lead." The New Line offering, the recipient of so-so reviews, did $12.775 million, though its per-screen-average of $4,246 was off the lead pace.

Also new was "Lucky Number Slevin," an ensemble comic thriller with Josh Hartnett and Bruce Willis. In 1984 theaters, "Slevin" made $7.13 million for No. 5 overall. Less impressive returns came from "Phat Girlz," which could only make 3.1 million, playing in 1056 locations.

Overall, the Top 12 films at the box office made $105.1 million, off by 20.4 percent from last weekend, but 33 percent ahead of the comparable weekend last year, when "Sahara" and "Fever Pitch" were the big premieres.

Beyond the new releases, the Top 12 included "Inside Man" at No. 4 with a $9.2 million third weekend, down by 40 percent from last frame and bringing its total to $66.1. "Failure to Launch" was No. 6 with nearly $4.11 million in returns for just under $80 million after five weekends. Last weekend's surprise success "ATL" dropped by 68 percent from last weekend to No. 7 with $3.75 million, followed by "V for Vendetta" ($3.37 million), "Phat Girlz," "Thank You For Smoking" ($2.4 million on only 300 screens), "Stay Alive" ($2.16 million) and "She's the Man" ($2.15 million).

In the limited marketplace, the champ was the ensemble dramedy "Friends with Money," which rode its star power -- Jennifer Aniston, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand and Joan Cusack -- to a $636,681 weekend and $22,739 per screen. In its second weekend, the Focus drama "Brick" added 19 screens and still averaged $9,351 per for a $196,375 take.

Hoping to continue the box office's spring momentum are next weekend's dueling new releases "Scary Movie 4" and "The Wild."

These are estimates by Exhibitor Relations, which tracks box-office receipts daily.

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