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‘House’ is still hottest property

Times Staff Writer

Steve Martin and Queen Latifah fended off an alien invasion to hold on to the top spot at the box office this weekend as moviegoing remained relatively strong amid the uncertainty of wartime.

Disney’s “Bringing Down the House” brought in an estimated $16.2 million in its third weekend, while Warner Bros.’ debuting “Dreamcatcher” snared No. 2 with an estimated $15.3 million.

Dan Fellman, head of distribution at Warner Bros., said the studio was satisfied with the opening of the science-fiction thriller based on a Stephen King novel, considering that dramatic TV war coverage probably distracted the film’s primarily male audience.

Although moviegoing was down considerably from the comparable weekend last year, Dan Marks of the box-office tracking firm Nielsen EDI said that it was tough to say whether the war in Iraq had any effect on business.

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The estimated total for all films this weekend was $97 million, Marks said, a decline of 28% from the $135 million for all films on the same weekend in 2002. The top two films that weekend were “Blade 2,” which opened with $32.5 million, and the animated blockbuster “Ice Age,” which took in a whopping $30.1 million in its second weekend.

The current weekend looks a lot better, however, when compared with the comparable three-day period in 2001, Marks noted. The total for all films that year was $82 million, when “Heartbreakers” opened with $11.8 million and “The Brothers” was No. 2 with $10.3 million.

The current weekend is also better than the comparable period in 2000, in which all films together brought in $87 million, $10 million less than the current weekend, Marks said.

Among other openers in the current weekend, Disney’s “Piglet’s Big Movie” tallied an estimated $6.1 million to finish in seventh place.

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The film that has benefited most from its Oscar nominations is “Chicago,” which remained at No. 6 with an estimated $6.2 million, down only 12% from last weekend. The musical has stayed in the middle of the top 10 for weeks, and since the nominations were announced Feb. 11, it has added $69.4 million, more than double its pre-nomination total. Sunday estimates put the movie’s cumulative gross at $134.1 million.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Weekend Box Office

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Preliminary results based on studio projections.

*--* Movie 3-day gross Total (millions)

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*--* Bringing Down the House $16.2 $83.3

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Dreamcatcher $15.3 $15.3

Agent Cody Banks $9.3 $26.6

View From the Top $7.6 $7.6

The Hunted $6.6 $23.4

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Chicago $6.2 $134.1

Piglet’s Big Movie $6.1 $6.1

Tears of the Sun $4.5 $38

Old School $4 $67.1

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Boat Trip $3.7 $3.7 Source: Nielsen EDI Los Angeles Times

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