Box Office: Swordfish Tops Shrek

Maybe now the Battlefield Earth jokes will finally stop. With a little help from his friends — savvy action producer Joel Silver, Aussie hottie Hugh Jackman, and the bared bazooms of actress and former beauty queen Halle Berry — John Travolta has become the star of the nation's top-grossing movie for the first time since January 1999.

Swordfish, in which the seasoned sex symbol plays a rogue secret agent, won the weekend, outperforming holdovers Shrek and Pearl Harbor and easily besting fellow newcomer Evolution. According to studio estimates issued earlier today, the fast-paced actioner posted first-weekend ticket sales of $18.4 million to lay claim to the oft-bruited title "The No. 1 Movie in America" — Travolta hasn't heard those words since the wide-release debut of A Civil Action resulted in a $15.2 million first-weekend haul.

His moment of glory could be short-lived: Paramount's relentlessly marketed Tomb Raider opens next Friday. But until then, it's sweet redemption all over again for Hollywood's reigning career-comeback king, whose brutal 2000 included the most scathing critical pans of the year for Battlefield Earth and witnessed Earth and the fall release Lucky Numbers post a combined total domestic gross of just $31.4 million.

The good news for Swordfish comes at the expense of Shrek, which expanded its release by 54 venues (to a precedent-setting 3,715) but still had to settle for second place. The animated fairy tale spoof took in approximately $17.1 million, pushing its 24-day total to just over $175 million.

Evolution's Not-So-Meteoric Debut DreamWorks is doubtless pleased with the staying power of Shrek, but the studio almost certainly expected better things of Evolution. Ivan Reitman's extraterrestrial riff on Ghostbusters scarcely challenged the third weekend of fast-fading Pearl Harbor.

The World War II epic saw the pace of its ticket sales lag behind that of Shrek, and its weekend earnings shrank by 50 percent for the second week in a row, but Harbor still rang up just under $15 million to finish third. Evolution, with grosses estimated at $13.2 million, claimed the No. 4 rank. (Looking on the bright side, that's the biggest first-weekend windfall to date for stars David Duchovny and Orlando Jones — though Jones' Double Take did ring up an $11.7 million debut in January.)

Replicating their initial order of finish, last weekend's trio of new releases occupied the next three rungs on the ladder. That's reasonably good news for The Animal ($9.8 million, down 50 percent) and Moulin Rouge ($7.6 million, down 44 percent). But What's the Worst That Could Happen? continued to live down to its title: Ticket sales for the Martin Lawrence comedy dipped by a decidedly dismal 59 percent, resulting in a weekend take of just $5.4 million.

The Top 10 films for May 25-28, 2001: Swordfish, $18.4 million Shrek, $17.1 million Pearl Harbor, $14.9 million Evolution, $13.2 million The Animal, $9.8 million Moulin Rouge, $7.6 million What's the Worst That Could Happen?, $5.4 million The Mummy Returns, $4.2 million A Knight's Tale, $1.7 million Bridget Jones's Diary, $1.2 million

Final figures will be released Monday.