'Grinch' keeps tight grip on top spot at box office

— The Grinch remained king of the hill at the weekend box office for a fourth consecutive week, stepping over two new mountain-rescue movies in the climb for the top spot.

"Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas" earned $18.5 million despite dropping 32 percent from last weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. The Jim Carrey comedy has earned a total of $195.5 million.

Continued interest in holiday fare through December will likely boost "The Grinch" past "Mission: Impossible 2" as the year's highest-grossing film, industry analysts say.

Meanwhile, two new mountaintop thrillers opened with strong, but unspectacular, box office earnings.

"Vertical Limit," which starred Chris O'Donnell and Bill Paxton in a thriller about a rescue on the world's second-highest mountain, debuted in second place with $16 million.

The romantic adventure "Proof of Life," which stars Meg Ryan as the wife of a kidnapping victim held for ransom in the Andes, opened at No. 3 with $10.4 million. Russell Crowe plays a rescue expert in the movie who falls in love with Ryan's character while trying to save her husband.

"Dungeons and Dragons," a special-effects filled fantasy based on the role-playing game, opened modestly with $7 million, taking fifth place behind "Unbreakable," which placed fourth with $7.5 million.

In limited release, the martial arts and historical romance "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" packed its 16 theaters, pulling in a total of $686,657. The film, set in ancient China and starring Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh, earned a remarkable $42,916 per screen. By contrast, "The Grinch" earned only $5,807 per screen, playing in 3,186 theaters.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.:

1. "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," $18.5 million.

2. "Vertical Limit," $16 million.

3. "Proof of Life," $10.4 million.

4. "Unbreakable," $7.5 million.

5. "Dungeons and Dragons," $7 million.

6. "102 Dalmatians," $6.3 million.

7. "Rugrats in Paris: The Movie," $4 million.

8. "Meet the Parents," $3 million.

9. "Charlie's Angels," $2.7 million.

10. "Bounce," $2.6 million.

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