'Men in Black II' keeps new movie releases at bay

— Tom Hanks was outgunned by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.

"Men in Black II," with Jones and Smith saving the Earth from aliens, was the No. 1 movie for a second weekend, grossing $25 million to push its 12-day total to $133.3 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

"Road to Perdition," starring Hanks as a Depression-era hit man who's an artist with a tommy gun, debuted in second place with $22.1 million, although it played in only half as many theaters as "Men in Black II."

"Road to Perdition" already is receiving Academy Awards buzz for Hanks, co-star Paul Newman and filmmaker Sam Mendes, who won the directing Oscar with his first film, 1999 best-picture winner "American Beauty."

The weekend offered a healthy range of choices, including acclaimed adult-oriented films, action movies, comedy and family flicks.

"This is what summer is all about, creating the widest diversity of choices for the broadest possible audience," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

The overall box office soared with the rush of newcomers. The top 12 movies took in $130.8 million, up 20 percent from the same weekend a year ago. For the year, Hollywood revenues are running about 20 percent ahead of the record pace of 2001, when the box office hit $8.4 billion.

"Reign of Fire," the Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale tale of fire-breathing dragons, opened in third place with $16 million.

"Halloween: Resurrection," featuring Busta Rhymes and Jamie Lee Curtis in the eighth installment of the slasher franchise, premiered at No. 4 with $12.3 million.

"Mr. Deeds" was fifth with $11 million, lifting its 17-day total to $94.1 million. No. 6 with $10 million was "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course," starring Steve Irwin in a big-screen adaptation of his wildlife TV series.

As it did with "American Beauty," distributor DreamWorks is rolling "Road to Perdition" out more gradually than most wide releases, which typically are marketed to maximize business in the first few weekends. It plans to expand "Road to Perdition" into a few hundred more theaters next weekend.

"Road to Perdition" is an effort at counter-programming a higher-minded movie against the action and comedy movies that dominate summer.

DreamWorks had great summer success with another smart Hanks film, "Saving Private Ryan," released in July 1998.

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

1. "Men in Black II," $25 million.

2. "Road to Perdition," $22.1 million.

3. "Reign of Fire," $16 million.

4. "Halloween: Resurrection," $12.3 million.

5. "Mr. Deeds," $11 million.

6. "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course," $10 million.

7. "Like Mike," $7.6 million.

8. "Lilo & Stitch," $7.6 million.

9. "Minority Report," $7.4 million.

10. "The Bourne Identity," $5.8 million.

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