'Cast Away' Starts New Year on Top

Tom Hanks entered the new millennium as the most popular star at the North American box office, selling about $41.5 million worth of tickets to his desert island drama Cast Away during the four-day New Year’s holiday weekend.

According to studio estimates issued today, Twentieth Century Fox’s Cast Away has pulled in $111.2 million from movie theaters across the United States and Canada after two weekends at No. 1. It passed the century mark Sunday, its 10th day of release.

Also hitting a ton was Mel Gibson’s What Women Want (Paramount), which held steady at No. 2 with $25.4 million for the Friday-to-Monday period. The romantic comedy has grossed $114.8 million after three weekends; it reached $100 million Saturday, its 16th day.

Hanks plays a plane crash survivor stranded on a South Pacific desert island for four years, while Gibson plays a macho ad exec who can suddenly read women’s thoughts. Twentieth Century Fox is a unit of Fox Entertainment Group Inc. Paramount Pictures is a unit of Viacom Inc.

Snowstorms Hurt Ticket Sales

The Sandra Bullock comedy Miss Congeniality made good headway toward $100 million as it jumped two places to No. 3 in its second weekend with ticket sales of $18.2 million. After 11 days, the Warner Bros. film has pulled in $45.3 million. Bullock plays an FBI agent who goes undercover at a beauty pageant. Warner Bros. Pictures is a unit of Time Warner Inc.

Snowstorms in the Northeast hurt ticket sales, studio executives said. Warner Bros. Distribution President Dan Fellman estimated "Miss Congeniality" could have pulled in an additional $1 million if not for the bad weather.

One-quarter of the 162 theaters showing 10th-ranked Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, said Sony Pictures Classics spokesman Tom Prassis. Director Ang Lee’s Mandarin-language martial arts romance grossed $4.7 million, taking its 26-day haul to $13.6 million. The studio is a unit of Sony Corp.

Rounding out the top five were the Nicolas Cage romantic comedy The Family Man (Universal), which slipped one place to No. 4 with $16.8 million, and the Walt Disney Pictures cartoon The Emperor’s New Groove, which rose one place to No. 5 with $14.5 million. Their respective totals are $43.2 million after two weekends and $50.6 million after three weekends. Universal Pictures is a unit of Vivendi Universal, and Walt Disney Pictures is a unit of Walt Disney Co., which is also the parent company of ABCNEWS.com.

Some Strong Showings for Limited Releases

Opening at No. 11 with $4.3 million was director Billy Bob Thornton’s Western romance All the Pretty Horses, starring Matt Damon and rising Spanish beauty Penelope Cruz. The audience was primarily aged 25 and over, said Miramax Films spokesman David Kaminow. Miramax is a unit of Disney.

The limited release arena included several new films. Director Steven Soderbergh’s acclaimed drug drama Traffic (USA Films), starring Michael Douglas, scored $240,000 from four screens (two in New York, one each in Los Angeles and Toronto). It widens to 1,500 prints Friday.

Kevin Costner’s Cuban missile crisis drama Thirteen Days (New Line) directed by Roger Donaldson, blasted off with $175,000 from eight screens (four each in New York and Los Angeles) in its first full weekend. For a movie set in 1962, the film is pulling in a surprisingly high number of viewers aged under 25, said studio spokesman Steve Elzer. The film expands to 2,000 runs on Jan. 12.

Shadow of the Vampire, a comedy revolving around the 1922 German horror film Nosferatu, scared up $150,000 from six screens (three each in New York and Los Angeles). The Lions Gate film stars arthouse faves Willem Dafoe as actor Max Schreck and John Malkovich as director F.W. Murnau. It widens to 500 screens on Jan. 26. USA Films is a unit of USA Networks Inc.. New Line Cinema is a unit of Time Warner. Lions Gate is a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Inc.

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