After last week's surprise success of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, the US box office took an upward turn this week – at least in theological terms – when Reece Witherspoon romance Just Like Heaven took the top spot with $16.2 million, ahead of Emily Rose's $15.3 million.
That's a 49% drop on last week for the litigious horror, but still more than it was expected to get in its opening weekend. Third place went to Lord of War, Nicolas Cage's arms dealer drama, with $9.2 million – an even weaker opening than his last low-key, September offering, Matchstick Men.
In fourth, The 40 Year-Old Virgin continues to display his incredible staying power, dropping just 24% to take $5.8 million in its fifth week, and to pass the $90 million mark. There's no doubt that it will break $100 million – the only question is how much further it can go.
Fifth place was another new release, Cry Wolf, which took $4.6 million after poisonous reviews – even by the standards of horror movies – and nipped in just ahead of Transporter 2 which fell 45% to $4.0 million.
Rounding out the top ten were The Constant Gardener ($3.7 million; $24.4 million in 3 weeks); Red Eye ($2.9 million and $55 million in 5 weeks); March of the Penguins ($2.6 million and $70.4 million so far) and The Wedding Crashers, still there after 10 weeks, and down only 22.4% for $2.5 this weekend, bringing its total to $203.6 million.
The real excitement came further down the list this weekend, as Tim Burton's fabulous Corpse Bride opened on a mere five screens and took an astronomical $82,271 per screen for $411,353 overall. That has to bode well for its wide opening on Friday. Proof, the Paltrow-Hopkins-(Jake) Gyllenhaal maths drama also opened on just eight screens and took $25,109 on each one. It's also due to open wide this coming weekend.
The box office as a whole was up on this time last year, which is something of a relief for Hollywood after a summer that was significantly down – not because the big films really underperformed, but because there were no break-out successes and few middle of the road films that really took off. With Corpse Bride and Flight Plan opening next week, along with roller-disco extravaganza Roll Bounce, next weekend should see another lift out of Hollywood's summer doldrums.