'Ice Age' makes hot debut

— "Ice Age" froze out the competition at movie theaters as the animated film about prehistoric pals debuted with a whopping $47.9 million, a record for a movie opening in March.

Opening in second place was the video-game adaptation "Resident Evil" with $18.2 million, while the Robert De Niro-Eddie Murphy buddy comedy "Showtime" premiered at No. 3 with $15.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

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AP Photo

Meet the weirdest herd of any Age: From left are Diego the saber-toothed tiger, Sid the sloth and Manfred the woolly mammoth, in Twentieth Century Fox's "Ice Age."

Powered by "Ice Age," the overall weekend box office soared to levels normally seen only in the busy summer or holiday seasons. The top 12 movies grossed $124.2 million, up 71 percent from the same weekend a year ago and up nearly 50 percent from a week ago.

"It's summer in March," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Set during a deep freeze 20,000 years ago, "Ice Age" features a woolly mammoth voiced by Ray Romano, a sloth (John Leguizamo) and a saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) who form an unlikely band trying to return a human baby to its tribe.

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

1. "Ice Age," $47.9 million.

2. "Resident Evil," $18.2 million.

3. "Showtime," $15.4 million.

4. "The Time Machine," $10.9 million.

5. "We Were Soldiers," $8.8 million.

6. "All About the Benjamins," $4.9 million.

7. "40 Days and 40 Nights," $4.6 million.

8. "John Q," $3.7 million.

9. "A Beautiful Mind," $3.4 million.

10. "Return to Never Land," $2.3 million.

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