This year's Valentine's Day ritual: Chocolates, roses, dinner, and ''50 First Dates.'' The Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore romance swept audiences off their feet, grossing a fantastic $41 million in its first three days, according to studio estimates.
If that number holds, ''First Dates'' will rank as the second-highest February debut ever, behind only ''Hannibal,'' which earned $58 million in 2001. (The previous No. 2 was last year's ''Daredevil,'' with $40.3 million.) With no other new nationwide films this weekend, ''Dates'' virtually had the marketplace to itself, allowing it to easily beat Sandler and Barrymore's 1998 comedy, ''The Wedding Singer,'' which opened this same weekend with $18.9 million.
Still, ''Barbershop 2: Back in Business'' had a nice showing; its receipts were clipped 36 percent to $15.6 million, bringing its 10-day total to an impressive $44 million. Close behind in third was ''Miracle,'' which slipped only 28 percent to $14 million. And ''The Butterfly Effect'' dropped only 13 percent to $5.7 million, placing fourth.
Fifth place was a close race between ''You Got Served'' with $5.1 million and ''Along Came Polly'' with $5 million. Much of ''Polly'''s business must have been couples who got shut out of ''50 First Dates.''