In an utterly mediocre week at the box-office, Head Of State received no red carpet welcome. Though it was the most popular film in North America, it harnessed just about $14 million in three days.
Despite nearly doubling its screen count, the acclaimed The Pianist, which stunningly won three Oscars (Best Director for Roman Polanski, Best Actor for Adrien Brody and Best Adapted Screenplay (Ronald Harwood), failed to get into the top 10 list.
The surprise hit of the season Bringing Down the House lost its crown for being three weeks at the top, but earned a terrific $12 million at No 2, taking its total to $100 million. Also joining the $100 million club was the Kate Hudson-Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days.
This is the first box-office smash for Hudson.
Rob Marshall's hit musical Chicago, winner of six Oscars, including Best Movie, continued to dance with zest.
The critically reviled Dreamcatcher (based on a Stephen King novel), which opened to a mediocre $15 million, had a nightmarish second weekend with a $6.3 million gross.
Slasher, sci-fi and supernatural-themed movies typically lose about half their box-office clout in the second week. Not a big worry when they open very big, say with about $40 million. But Dreamcatcher hit the earth with a 60 per cent drop and would be lucky to end its North American run with $40 million.
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan, Dreamcatcher joins The Hunted and Tears Of The Sun as being one of the big budget disappointments in recent weeks.
Two other newcomers had a guarded welcome, too. The sci-fi drama The Core opened at No 3 with about $12.3 million while the military whodunit Basic fought for fourth place, with a mediocre $12 million. All box-office numbers are estimates, based on projections for Sunday by studios. The actual figures are out Monday evening and in most cases, vary just about 2 to 3 per cent.
All three new films received mostly negative reviews from major critics. But Head Of State got a slightly better welcome than the other two. Chris Rock's debut directorial movie, a political farce, shows him as an improbable candidate for the presidential job and taking up many populist causes against odds.
While Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times found the film 'an imperfect movie, but not a boring one and not lacking in intelligence,' rival Chicago Tribune's Mark Caro complained it 'lacks zip, both in terms of its execution and conception.'
Frank Scheck in the Hollywood Reporter called it 'a distinct disappointment.' Whiile acknowledging Rock 'is an expert at searing, topical humor,' Manhola Dargis wrote in the Los Angeles Times that the movie 'lacks character development and great camera shots.'
But the fact that the film opened at No 1 shows comedies have been faring far better at the box-office over the last six months compared to dramas and high action films.
The Core shows Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank and Delroy Lindo in a sci-fi journey to the centre of the earth in a subterranean craft to deal with the unknown force that has caused the earth's inner core to stop rotating. They will fight to detonate a device that will reactivate the core and save humanity.
While the Hollywood Reporter, New York Post and the Los Angeles Times gave the film fairly decent reviews, The New York Times called it monumentally dumb for most part.
Ebert wrote in Chicago Sun-Times that the movie 'has energy and daring and is not afraid to make fun of itself ' while Kirk Honeycutt in the Hollywood Reporter declared it 'a popcorn movie with brains.' Kenneth Turan admitted in the Los Angeles Times that while the movie is a mess, it offers 'a good time for anyone in a throwback mood.'
In the New York Post, Lou Lumenick thought the big budget film was 'deliriously silly fun.'
But other reviewers including Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune and The New York Times's Elvis Mitchell thought the film lacked vision, offered no real thrills and wasted a talented cast.
In Basic, enigmatic and controversial sergeant Hardy (John Travolta) of the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is brought in by an old friend to investigate the disappearances of several Army Ranger cadets and their legendary drill instructor who is also a much disliked man (Samuel L Jackson) during an exercise at a basic training camp, Fort Clayton, in Panama.
There were a few okayish reviews: Wilmington called the movie 'pretty entertaining' in the Chicago Tribune.
Honeycutt complained in the Hollywood Reporter that 'there are twists and more twists until the story line resembles a pretzel. It's less a whodunit than a what-happened?'
Mick Salle mused in the San Francisco Chronicle that 'the plot twists, reversals, false accounts, unreliable narrators and conflicting testimonies... are just not worth revisiting.' William Arnold in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer termed the film 'insipid, overcooked and dull.'
Before the Oscars, the Holocaust survival drama The Pianist had grossed a respectable but unspectacular $20 million in North America and was fading fast. Now distributor Focus expects the movie ends its American run with at least $25 million. Nicole Kidman's Oscar win for The Hours did not zoom the film back into the top 10 list.
The two winners were at No 15 and No 16 the previous weekend and each was earning about $1 million. The Oscar win and addition of theatres gave them each about 10 percent boost. The Hours could end its North American run with about $44 million.
The Roman Polanski movie, which is doing far better business abroad -- in Japan, for instance, it has grossed $15 million with plenty more to come -- is still among the top 10 films in many countries. Having amassed $60 million abroad, it stands a good chance of reaching the $100 million benchmark.
Big Oscar winner Chicago added about 150 screens, taking its total count to 2,700, and grossed about $7.5 million, enjoying a 20 per cent boost from the previous week. Its total stands at about $145 million.
Spirited Away, the magical Japanese animated film about the triumphs of a 10-year-old plain looking girl in a strange place, is winning new audiences. Though a huge hit in Japan where it grossed a monstrous $240 million to $250 million, the film was an art house hit in America with about $6 million gross.
Now playing on about 700 screens, Spirited Away grossed about $1.6 million, taking its total to $7.1 million. It could earn about $10 million before its DVD version releases April 15.