‘Scooby-Doo 2′ Tops Box Office, ‘Ladykillers’ Finishes Distant Second

Ben Affleck's career gets boost as ‘Jersey Girl’ comes in strong fifth.

“Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed” fell $20 million short of the opening-weekend numbers achieved by its 2002 predecessor, but the film still managed to rake in an estimated $30.7 million to debut at #1.

Led by a cast that includes real-life couple Freddie Prinze Jr. and Sarah Michelle Gellar, as well as Matthew Lillard and a computer-animated Scooby, the film had enough bite to shut out the latest Tom Hanks flick, “The Ladykillers.” The Coen brothers’ (“Fargo”) remake of a 1955 bank-heist comedy earned second place with $13 million.

“Jersey Girl,” starring Ben Affleck, directed by his buddy Kevin Smith and featuring a brief cameo by Jennifer Lopez, opened at #5 with $8.3 million in estimated box-office receipts, which already puts it ahead of the abysmal $6 million total take of “Gigli.” The film’s placement is more impressive than might seem at first: It opened on just 1,500 screens, approximately half as many as the films that posted better results. Affleck was out in full force for a blitz of promotion leading up to the movie’s opening, during which the actor gamely poked fun at the media overkill of his failed romance with J. Lo.

Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” lost another 35 percent of its audience, but continued to put up strong numbers, slipping a notch to #3 on $12.5 million, bringing its to-date total above $315 million. The film will open in another 500 theaters this weekend in anticipation of the Easter holiday.

A week after its #1 debut, the “Dawn of the Dead” remake dropped to #4 on $10.3 million, bringing its two-week total to $43.9 million. Speaking of dead, DMX’s “Never Die Alone” was DOA at the box office, limping in at #11 on a disappointing $3.1 million take.

Rounding out the top 10 are “Taking Lives” at #6 with $6.5 million; “Starsky & Hutch” at #7 with $6.3 million; “Hidalgo” at #8 with $5.4 million; “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” at #9 with $5.4 million and “Secret Window” at #10 with $5.4 million.

Next weekend’s box-office battle should be a doozy, as “The Passion of the Christ” is expected to do boffo business around Easter, even as it faces the debut of the latest comic-book adaptation, “Hellboy.”

The face-off should continue Hollywood’s winning streak, which has had five straight weekends of grosses beating the same period last year. The top 12 movies from this weekend grossed $110 million, a 26 percent increase over the same weekend in 2003.

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