‘Ice Age’ Beats ‘Benchwarmers’ Heat To Hold Box-Office #1

Animated sequel is the first film of 2006 to earn over $100 million.

Despite attempts at a box-office coup by a trio of benchwarmers, a troupe of dancers, a pair of crime bosses and some phat girlz, “Ice Age: The Meltdown” held #1 for a second week.

The animated sequel fended off four new releases to cling to the top of the box office, earning $34.5 million, according to early estimates. That brings the family-friendly flick’s 10-day take to over $116 million, making it the first film of 2006 to earn over $100 million. In the film, animals voiced by Queen Latifah, Ray Romano and Seann William Scott are celebrating as the Ice Age is ending — until their lives are threatened by the impending collapse of a massive dam.

Leading the onslaught of new releases this week is “The Benchwarmers,” which bowed at #2 with $20.5 million. The film stars Rob Schneider, David Spade and “Napoleon Dynamite” ’s Jon Heder as three average dorks hired by a millionaire — and fellow dork — to form a baseball team good enough to give the best Little League teams in the country a run for their money (see “Arrested Development? Heder, Lovitz, Schneider And Spade Get Worked Up About Their Toys” ).

Antonio Banderas’ latest film, “Take the Lead,” followed “The Benchwarmers,” bowing at #3 with more than $12.7 million. Banderas plays a dance instructor who volunteers to teach ballroom dancing to a group of inner-city high school kids in the film. Though they initially reject his lessons, the persistent teacher works with the students’ interests and together they create a new style of dance (see “Dancing With The Hesitant Stars Of ’Take The Lead’ “ ).

Spike Lee’s latest film, “Inside Man,” slipped from #2 to #4. The thriller, which stars Denzel Washington as an NYPD hostage negotiator called in to deal with a bank heist, earned more than $9.1 million.

“Lucky Number Slevin,” another of the weekend’s major new releases, bowed at #5 with more than $7.1 million. The crime thriller hinging on a case of mistaken identity stars Josh Hartnett, Lucy Liu and Bruce Willis and features Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman as a pair of rival crime bosses (see ” ’Lucky Number Slevin’: Dazed And Confusing, By Kurt Loder” ).

Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey’s romantic comedy “Failure to Launch” slipped two spots to #6, earning more than $4.1 million (see ” ’Failure To Launch’ Addresses National Epidemic: ’Adultescents’ “ ).

Rounding out this week’s box-office top 10 are “ATL,” which fell from #3 to #7 with more than $3.7 million; “V for Vendetta,” which slipped from #5 to #8 with more than $3.3 million; “Phat Girlz,” which debuted at #9 with $3.1 million; and “Thank You for Smoking,” which makes its first appearance on the box-office top 10 with $2.4 million.

Overall, ticket sales were up from the corresponding weekend last year.

Next week, look for “Scary Movie 4,” “The Wild” and “Hard Candy” to debut on the box-office top 10.

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