Denzel Tops Jennifer Garner In Box-Office Squeaker

Race so tight that ranking could change once final grosses are in.

Box-office superstar Denzel Washington had to use all his firepower to hold off Jennifer Garner this weekend. Washington's hostage drama, "Man on Fire," squeaked out a #1 showing with an estimated $23 million, barely besting Garner's headlining debut in the body-switching comedy "13 Going on 30." But the numbers were so tight that final grosses, to be released on Monday, could put them in a dead heat.

The win gave Washington his best opening weekend since his Oscar-winning turn in 2001's "Training Day," which bowed in October of that year with $22.6 million. The strong debut for "Alias" star Garner — whose biggest prior film role was a co-starring spot in Ben Affleck's "Daredevil" — led experts to predict that she could be the next Julia Roberts. Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill Vol. 2" lost nearly 60 percent of its audience as it slipped two spots to #3 in its second weekend; the film earned $10.4 million, giving it $42 million in its first two weeks. (Click for photos of "Kill Bill Vol.2.")

"The Punisher" also lost more than 55 percent of its audience, dropping two spots to #4 on $6.1 million for a two-week total of $23 million. (Click for photos of "The Punisher.") While the rest of the top 10 featured a slight re-shuffling of the same films from last week, a few movies made hasty exits from the upper

echelon. After just three weeks, Disney's disastrous "The Alamo" dropped to #12 on $2 million in grosses, giving the $100-plus million fiasco a three-week total of $19 million.

The Bruce Willis/ Matthew Perry sequel comedy, "The Whole Ten Yards," slipped to #15 in its third week, shedding another 60 percent to come in with $1.4 million, for a total of $14 million to date. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" star Nia Vardalos' comeback attempt, "Connie and Carla," also

fared poorly, losing more than 50 percent of its audience to stay static at #13, for a paltry two-week total of $5.8 million.

The year's biggest movie to date, "The Passion of the Christ," dropped out of the top 10 for the first time since its release — to 11th place, grossing $2.1 million for a nine-week total of $364 million.

Rounding out the top 10 are "Home on the Range" at #5 with $3.4 million; "Johnson Family Vacation" at #6 with $3.15 million; "Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed" at #7 with $3.13 million; "Hellboy" at #8 with $3 million; "Ella Enchanted" at #9 with $2.7 million and "Walking Tall" at

#10 with $2.6.

With two April releases pulling in $20 million-plus for the first time ever, ticket sales of $83.7 million for the top 12 were up 12 percent over the same weekend last year.

Though "The Passion of the Christ" has shocked all observers this year with its strong run, next weekend will test whether the career of the religious film's star, Jim Caviezel, has been put on the fast track. Caviezel stars in another biographical film as the 1930s golf champion Bobby Jones in "Bobby Jones, Stroke of Genius."

Also opening is the comedy "Envy," starring Jack Black and Ben Stiller; the cloning drama "Godsend" with Greg Kinnear, Robert De Niro and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos; as well as "Mean Girls," a teen comedy starring Lindsay Lohan that was written by Tina Fey of "Saturday Night Live."

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