'Furious' races to top of box office

— Race cars made road kill out of talking animals at the box office. "The Fast and the Furious," a thriller about Los Angeles street racers, debuted as the weekend's No. 1 film, grossing $41.6 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Eddie Murphy's "Dr. Dolittle 2" opened in second place. The sequel about the veterinarian who speaks with furry creatures took in $26.7 million.

Last weekend's top film, "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," finished third with $20.2 million, a steep 58 percent drop from its debut. "Tomb Raider," starring Angelina Jolie, has grossed $84.2 million in 10 days.

The overall box office soared, with the top 12 movies taking in $140.6 million, up 44 percent from the same weekend last year.

"The Fast and the Furious" benefited from an up-and-coming cast that includes Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez. Diesel plays the leader of a street-racing outfit whose gang is infiltrated by an undercover detective (Walker).

With a cast of white, Hispanic, black and Asian actors, the movie drew wide-ranging crowds. Half the audience was white, 24 percent was Hispanic, 11 percent was Asian-American and 10 percent was black, according to distributor Universal.

The opening-weekend haul for "The Fast and the Furious" wound up exceeding its production budget of $38 million.

The sequel to "Dr. Dolittle," a $140 million hit, had a higher profile early on. The first film opened at No. 1 with $29 million in June 1998.

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

1. "The Fast and the Furious," $41.6 million.

2. "Dr. Dolittle 2," $26.7 million.

3. "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," $20.2 million.

4. "Atlantis: The Lost Empire," $13.2 million.

5. "Shrek," $11 million.

6. "Swordfish," $7.7 million.

7. "Pearl Harbor," $7 million.

8. "Moulin Rouge," $3.8 million.

9. "Evolution," $3.6 million.

10. "The Animal," $3 million.

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