Aaliyah Tops Box Office With Posthumous Hit

Two separate cult audiences — fans of the late R&B singer Aaliyah and devotees of gothic novelist Anne Rice — converged at the box office this weekend to put Queen of the Damned in the top spot despite eminently lousy reviews.

Aaliyah, who perished in a plane crash last fall, is the only star with name-recognition value in Queen, an adaptation of two Rice novels that forms a nominal sequel to the 1994 Tom Cruise/Brad Pitt hit Interview with the Vampire.

The only other wide release was the Kevin Costner thriller Dragonfly, which had a listless third-place opening. As a result, this week's list looks an awful lot like last week's list.

Disney's Peter Pan sequel Return to Neverland continued to perform above expectations with a strong third-place showing, while Fox Searchlight's ultra-low-budget comedy Super Troopers continued to rake in profits below the mainstream media's radar.

The relatively small second week drop for Denzel Washington's John Q. suggested that his appeal has never been stronger, while the rapid fall-off of Brice Willis' Hart's War and Arnold Schwarzenegger's Collateral Damage bolstered conventional wisdom that their salad days are behind them. And Britney Spears' Crossroads took a 51 percent hit, which bodes less than well for her future on the big screen.

Tune in next week as Mel Gibson (whose last big hit was the romantic comedy What Women Want) and Josh Hartnett (a war-movie regular courtesy of Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down) trade places with each other in We Were Soldiers and 40 Days and 40 Nights.

Andrew Johnston is a film critic and associate editor at US WEEKLY magazine.

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