Box Office: Hanks Sweeps Holiday Audiences Away

If Tom Hanks ever has even a moment of doubt about his box-office appeal, the performance of his new film, Cast Away, should forever banish any doubt that audiences really, really like him

In early box-office estimates for the weekend before Christmas, Hanks' new film, which he carries almost single-handedly, earned $30 million from Friday through Sunday — the best Christmas opening on record, according to Exhibitor Relations. Hanks stars as an overworked businessman marooned on a desert island for four years, and the two-time Oscar winner is on-screen solo for much of the film. Fine by most audiences, who chose to see a sometimes speechless Hanks over new films from Nicolas Cage, Sandra Bullock, and yes, even Dracula.

Cast Away, which reteams Hanks with his Forrest Gump director Robert Zemeckis, didn't best last week's $33.6 record-setting opening of Mel Gibson in What Women Want, but it's now Hanks' second-best opening (after 1999's Saving Private Ryan). It's also the third-best December opener, after What Women Want and 1997's Scream 2.

Women, which stars Mel Gibson as a male chauvinist who acquires the ability to read women's minds, took in $16.3 million in its second week, sneaking into second place.

Grinch Now Top Film of 2000 In fourth place was The Grinch with $11.5 million. This week, it passed up Mission: Impossible 2 as the top-grossing film of 2000. After six weeks (four of them at No. 1), the Universal family film has earned $235.2 million, glad tidings indeed for the studio, director Ron Howard, and star Jim Carrey.

New Films From Cage, Bullock New in theaters this weekend was the holiday-themed The Family Man, which stars Nicolas Cage as a single career man who gets a glimpse of what life would have been like if he'd married his college sweetheart (Téa Leoni). The It's a Wonderful Life-esque drama took in $12.8 million to place third.

Also opening this weekend was Sandra Bullock's "Lethal Weapon at a beauty pageant" comedy Miss Congeniality, which was fifth place with $10.3 million, or if you prefer pageant parlance, fourth runner-up to Tom Hanks' box-office king.

A cast of mostly unknowns propelled the awkwardly titled Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000 to seventh place and $6.5 million.

Tiger Enters Top 10 Boosted by multiple year-end critics' awards, the Chinese-language martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon leapt into the Top 10. The sweeping historic romance expanded from 31 theaters to 141, and its per-screen average remains extraordinarily high. In its third week of limited release, it earned an average of $19,748 per screen. Cast Away's per-screen average was $10,860, and the next-best average in the Top 10 was $5,360 for The Family Man.

Playing in limited release, the new film from Joel and Ethan Coen, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, took in $150,000, and the Sean Connery film Finding Forrester earned $50,000.

The Top 10 films for Dec. 22-24, 2000:

Cast Away, $30 million What Women Want, $16.3 million The Family Man, $12.8 million Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, $11.6 million Miss Congeniality, $10.3 million The Emperor's New Groove, $8 million Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000, $6.5 million Dude, Where's My Car?, $4.5 million Vertical Limit, $4.4 million Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, $2.8 million

Final figures will be released Tuesday.