'American Pie 2' tastes sweet success at box office

— "American Pie 2" grabbed the biggest slice of the box office, debuting as the top weekend film with $45.1 million, the best opening ever for an R-rated comedy.

Last weekend's top film, "Rush Hour 2," slipped to No. 2 with $31.5 million, pushing its 10-day total to $131.9 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The movie has almost matched the $141 million that "Rush Hour" took in over its entire theatrical run.

Among other new movies, Nicole Kidman's ghost story "The Others" opened strongly at No. 4 with $13.7 million. The live-action and animated comedy "Osmosis Jones," about a battle between a virus and a white blood cell inside a man's body, tanked with just $5.6 million, coming in at No. 7.

The overall box office continued to surge during a period when big hits from Hollywood traditionally are petering out as summer wanes. The top 12 movies grossed $146.4 million, up 52 percent from the same weekend a year ago.

"This is the strongest home stretch of a summer I've ever seen," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office. "I've never seen so many big films one after the next in the dog days of late July and August."

The opening gross for "American Pie 2" was more than double the $18.7 million the original movie took in over its first weekend in July 1999. "American Pie" went on to gross $102.1 million.

"Sequels tend to open very big right now," said Nikki Rocco, head of distribution for Universal, which released the "American Pie" flicks. "And we're making better sequels these days."

The sequel reunites Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Mena Suvari and the rest of the original cast for a second summer of gross-out sexual hijinks.

"American Pie 2" topped "Scary Movie" as the best opening ever for an R-rated comedy. It also is the second-best opening ever for an R-rated movie, behind "Hannibal," which debuted with $58 million.

In limited release, the film-noir thriller "The Deep End" had a strong debut, grossing $140,487 in six theaters in New York City and Los Angeles for a $23,415 average.

The movie, starring Tilda Swinton as a mother coping with a dead body and blackmailers, will expand to about 200 theaters in 70 markets over the next two weeks.

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

1. "American Pie 2," $45.1 million.

2. "Rush Hour 2," $31.5 million.

3. "The Princess Diaries," $14.1 million.

4. "The Others," $13.7 million.

5. "Planet of the Apes," $13.3 million.

6. "Jurassic Park 3," $7.3 million.

7. "Osmosis Jones," $5.6 million.

8. "America's Sweethearts," $4.6 million.

9. "Legally Blonde," $3.8 million.

10. "Original Sin," $3.1 million.

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