These days, Johnny Depp is box office gold. The long-respected actor is becoming one of the most reliable audience draws of the year, now that his latest film, ''Once Upon a Time in Mexico,'' has premiered with $24 million.
The film, which reteams ''Desperado'' costars Antonio Banderas and Salma Hayek with director Robert Rodriguez, came close to grossing in its first weekend the $25.5 million ''Desperado'' earned in its entire run in 1995. Eight years of inflation certainly helped, but Depp's participation, hot on the heels of ''Pirates of the Caribbean,'' was definitely key to its success.
Second place went to Ridley Scott's new con-man comedy ''Matchstick Men,'' with a respectable $13.3 million. The film, which played at last week's Toronto International Film Festival, stars Nicolas Cage and Sam Rockwell as con artists and rising star Alison Lohman as Cage's long-lost daughter. One of the hits of last year's Toronto festival was the horror flick ''Cabin Fever,'' which placed third in its first weekend with $8.5 million, despite having no big-level stars in the cast.
Last week's top film, David Spade's ''Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star,'' slipped 25 percent to $5 million, bringing its 10-day total to a not-so-hot $12.8 million. But ''Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl'' lasted yet another week in the top five, falling only 12 percent to $4.6 million. The swashbuckling comedy has now grossed $288 million, making it the second-biggest film of the year (behind ''Finding Nemo'') and the 18th highest-grossing film of all time.
But perhaps the weekend's biggest story is Sofia Coppola's ''Lost in Translation,'' which pulled off an incredible $39,000 per-theater average in 23 theaters thanks to the fantastic reviews and huge buzz on Bill Murray's hysterical yet touching performance. This is a film that's going to be around for a while -- deservedly.