This weekend's monster blizzard couldn't stop Tom Cruise's ''The Last Samurai'' from topping the box office chart, but the horrible weather did prohibit Cruise from besting Russell Crowe's ''Master and Commander'' opening from last month.
''Samurai'' debuted with $24.4 million, according to studio estimates. That's just below the $25.1 million ''Master and Commander'' grossed in its opening weekend, as well as Cruise's last holiday season premiere, ''Vanilla Sky,'' which opened with $25 million two years ago. If not for the snow, ''Samurai'' certainly would have surpassed both figures.
In second place was the weekend's other new wide release, the hip-hop drama ''Honey,'' starring Jessica Alba and Mekhi Phifer. Thanks to its immense young female appeal, ''Honey'' opened with a sweet $14 million.
As to be expected, last week's top three films took huge dives from last weekend's Thanksgiving figures. Eddie Murphy's critically reviled ''The Haunted Mansion'' fell 61 percent to $9.5 million, bringing its two-week total to $46.1 million, while Will Ferrell's smash ''Elf'' dropped 63 percent to $8.1 million. It's now earned a fantastic $139.6 million. And after two weeks at No. 1, ''The Cat in the Hat'' plummeted 70 percent to $7.3 million, bringing its total to $85.5 million. In a word, mee-ouch!