People rushed to theaters to see the buddy cop comedy "Rush Hour 3," making the last of this summer's big budget Hollywood films the top movie at the weekend box office.
The film from New Line Cinema took in $50.2 million according to studio estimates, enough to push last week's top film, "The Bourne Ultimatum," into second place with $33.7 million.
"Rush Hour 3" did not do as well as its predecessor, "Rush Hour 2," which took in $67.4 million when it was released in 2001. But it was the sixth "threequel" of the summer to open as a weekend's top film and it ranks as the fourth best August opening on record.
"We really never felt we were going to get where the second one was," said David Tuckerman, head of distribution for New Line. "The competitive landscape has changed dramatically in the six years since the last film. We figured we'd be in the 50's and that's where we are."
"The Bourne Ultimatum" crossed the $100 million mark in its second week in theaters. And with "The Simpsons Movie" coming in third with $11.1 million, for a three-week total of $152 million, Hollywood might be looking at its first $4 billion summer.
"We've been riding a wave of momentum that started with 'Transformers' in July," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "We already stand at $3.6 billion at the box office. The $4 billion summer, once thought an impossibility, is definitely within reach."
The summer movie season runs from the first weekend in May through Labor Day.
No other blockbuster films are scheduled this summer. But next week's opening film, "Superbad," is from the same team that made this year's hit comedy "Knocked Up" and could do well, Dergarabedian said.
This weekend's top 12 movies grossed 37% higher than the top dozen on the same weekend last year. So far this year, box office revenues are up 6.6% to $6.324 billion and attendance is up 1.9%.
The other film opening this weekend, Paramount's "Stardust," a well-reviewed adult fairy tale starring Michelle Pfeiffer, didn't fare as well. It took in $9 million, good enough for fourth place behind "The Simpsons Movie," but not as much as might be expected for a film with a cast that included Robert DeNiro, Peter O'Toole and Claire Danes.
The movie's theme made it difficult to market in a 30-second TV spot, said Rob Moore, Paramount's head of worldwide marketing and distribution.
"When you make an original movie, it's always very challenging to be able to communicate to your audience what the genre is," Moore said. "These movies tend to be driven by word of mouth and home entertainment."
Moore said it is expected to do better in international markets. The movie, which cost about $70 million to make, will be rolled out in Europe and other markets in October.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Rush Hour 3," 50.3 million.
2. "The Bourne Ultimatum," $33.7 million.
3. "The Simpsons Movie," $11.1 million.
4. "Stardust," $9 million.
5. "Underdog," $6.5 million.
6. "Hairspray," $6.4 million.
7. "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry," $5.9 million.
8. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," $5.4 million.
9. "No Reservations," $3.9 million.
10. "Daddy Day Camp," which opened Wednesday, $3.3 million.