Dave Karger
March 13, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

”The Christ” has risen to the top of the box office for a third week in a row. Mel Gibson’s ”The Passion of the Christ” earned another $31.7 million this weekend, according to studio estimates, placing the film in the top 25 grossers of all time.

Slipping 41 percent from last weekend, ”The Passion” has now grossed $264 million domestically, making it No. 23 on the all-time list, ahead of ”Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” ($262 million) and just behind ”Shrek” ($267.7 million). By next week it will have topped ”The Matrix Reloaded” ($281.6 million) as the highest-grossing R-rated film. At this rate, ”The Passion” could very well end up earning over $350 million in its initial release, becoming one of the seven most successful films ever.

Johnny Depp’s thriller ”Secret Window” had to settle for second place, premiering with $19 million, behind the $23.4 million debut of his last film, ”Once Upon A Time in Mexico.” Mostly poor reviews didn’t help bring in audiences beyond Depp’s core supporters.

Third place went to ”Starsky & Hutch,” which fell 43 percent to $16 million, followed by Viggo Mortensen’s ”Hidalgo,” which slipped 39 percent to $11.7 million. After 10 days, the two films have earned $51.5 million and $35.5 million, respectively.

Coming exactly one year after the first Cody Banks film, Frankie Muniz’s ”Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London” opened with only $8 million, compared to $14.1 million for its predecessor, which premiered in hundreds more theaters. But at least it performed better than Val Kilmer’s drama ”Spartan,” which couldn’t even manage $2,500 per theater, debuting with a poor $2 million.

The big question now: Can ”The Passion” match ”The Return of the King” and make it four weeks in a row at No. 1? New releases ”Taking Lives” and ”Dawn of the Dead” will be its stiffest competition yet, but anything could happen.

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