Carrey's ''Grinch'' leads the box office for a third straight week |


Carrey's ''Grinch'' leads the box office for a third straight week

The top five films hold, but ticket sales are down 50 percent from the Thanksgiving record

Jim Carrey, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

With no new competition this weekend, ”Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” easily topped the box office for the third straight weekend. The Ron Howard directed comedy grossed $27.1 million, bringing its total earnings to $172 million. In fact, the rankings for the top five movies were unchanged from last weekend, but all showed a deep drop off in ticket sales. ”Unbreakable” (No. 2), the new film from ”Sixth Sense” director M. Night Shyamalan, earned $15 million – a 51 percent fall from its opening. Disney’s kid flick ”102 Dalmations” (No. 3) took in $8.2 million, as the movie’s tie in marketing campaign (Toys! Games! More toys!) kicked into high gear for the holidays. The animated family film ”Rugrats in Paris” (No. 4) earned $6.5 million, while ”Charlie’s Angels” (No. 5) scored $5.2 million.

The top 12 films in general release earned $83 million, half of last weekend’s gross of $167 million. ”This year and last year, we have the same sort of situation – we didn’t have anything going into wide release the first week of December,” Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations Co., told Reuters. ”The strategy is that it’s so competitive you’d better let the market cool off before you bring in more wide releases.”

Even so, the oh so hot ”Grinch” is expected to contend for the green against next weekend’s big openings – the kidnap thriller ”Proof of Life,” starring Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe, the mountaineering adventure ”Vertical Limit,” and the fantasy ”Dungeons & Dragons.” But these blockbusters in waiting could spell trouble for the remainder of the top five, which haven’t held up as well as Carrey’s snaggletoothed Christmas treat.

CRITICAL MASS With no major new movies this weekend, let’s take a look at two films now in platform release. ”Billy Elliot,” the British story about a miner’s kid who yearns to dance ballet, continues to score high (an A- average) with readers: 71 percent said it was better than they expected, and 76 percent said they were likely to return for a second viewing. In 52 days, it’s earned $13.3 million.

At the other end of the wholesomeness scale from ”Billy”’s toe shoe happy hero is the main man of ”Quills,” the Marquis de Sade – that oft imprisoned French writer and libertine. The Fox Searchlight movie has so far earned $209,500 in only nine theaters, but it seems that readers are among its fans. They gave the movie an A- average, with 78 percent reporting it better than expected, and 64 percent saying they’d go back for more. Another 83 percent said they’d recommend it to friends and family – just in time for this Oscar touted drama’s wider release on Dec. 15.