'Two Towers' reaches lofty height in second week

— "Catch Me If You Can" couldn't catch "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers."

The "Lord of the Rings" sequel took in $48.9 million during its second weekend for a 12-day gross of $200.1 million, becoming one of the speediest films ever to cross the $200 million mark, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Its weekend average of $13,508 per theater had "Two Towers" fulfilling predictions it would outperform its predecessor, last year's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."

"This film is the story of the holiday season," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "To say it's this generation's 'Star Wars' is almost an understatement."

Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can," starring Leonardo DiCaprio as real-life '60s con man Frank Abagnale Jr., debuted at No. 2, capturing $30 million in its first weekend and $48.6 million since opening Wednesday.

"Catch Me If You Can" also stars Tom Hanks as an FBI agent pursuing Abagnale, who became a master check forger and posed as an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer while still in his teens. Playing in 3,156 theaters, it averaged $9,506 per screen.

Slipping to No. 3 was the Sandra Bullock-Hugh Grant romance "Two Weeks Notice," which earned $16.1 million in its second weekend for a total of $43.6 million. Jennifer Lopez's "Maid in Manhattan" was a close fourth with $13 million in its third weekend and an overall take of $57.4 million.

The four films, joined by a year-end rush of limited releases aiming for Academy Award consideration, were the stars of the biggest post-Christmas box office weekend ever, capping a year that's set records for tickets sales. Already, box office receipts for 2002 have surpassed $9 billion, an increase of about 10 percent over last year's total. Movie theater attendance for the year is expected to end 5 percent higher than last year, Dergarabedian said.

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

1. "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," $48.9 million.

2. "Catch Me If You Can," $30 million.

3. "Two Weeks Notice," $16.1 million.

4. "Maid in Manhattan," $13 million.

5. "Gangs of New York," $11.2 million.

6. "Drumline," $8.4 million.

7. "The Wild Thornberrys Movie," $7.4 million.

8. "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," $6.5 million.

9. "The Hot Chick," $4.8 million.

10. "Die Another Day," $4.5 million.

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