Scrat and his prehistoric pals chilled out at the box office this weekend, making "Ice Age: The Meltdown" the top film in its debut. The animated sequel about critters battling the effects of global warming took an estimated $70.5 million in ticket sales.
If estimates hold, that would make it the second-highest animated film opening ever, just behind "Shrek 2" and ahead of Disney/Pixar collaborations "The Incredibles," "Finding Nemo," "Monsters, Inc." and "Toy Story 2." It even beat out its 2002 predecessor "Ice Age" for the best March opening ever.
Spike Lee's heist drama "Inside Man" fell from the last week's top spot to No. 2, earning $15.7 million, while the coming-of-age tale "ATL" made its debut in third place with $12.5 million.
Holdovers "Failure to Launch," "V for Vendetta," "Stay Alive" and "She's the Man" maintained fourth through seventh place, making the gruesome/gleeful/gory horror flick "Slither" a low-ranking opener at No. 8, with a mere $3.7 million. Having said that, the opening for "Basic Instinct 2" -- Sharon Stone's much ballyhooed return to on-screen nudity -- tied with "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector" for the tenth spot, luring in only $3.2 million's worth of brave ticket buyers.
Kudos to "Brick," Focus Features' critically acclaimed high school noir offering starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Opening in only two theaters, it commanded a devastating $43,762 for each screen -- loads more than the weekend's other per-screen title contender ("Ice Age: The Meltdown" averaging $17,785 per screen). "Thank You for Smoking" did well also, with approximately $13,294 for each of its 126 theaters.
Overall, it was a brisk weekend for this week's Top 12 films, which grossed $136.5 million, up nearly 40 percent from the $97 million from last weekend and the same weekend last year.
Next Friday, four new offerings in wide release will test this box office warming trend. Newline's high school ballroom dancing flick "Take the Lead" will take on the lowbrow baseball comedy "Benchwarmers," the star-studded thriller "Lucky Number Slevin" and Monique keeping it large and in charge in "Phat Girlz."
These are estimates by Exhibitor Relations, which tracks box-office receipts daily.