LOS ANGELES -- Hannibal Lecter stood out in a crowd of new movies.
"Red Dragon," the third thriller starring Anthony Hopkins as serial killer Lecter, was the No. 1 movie for a second weekend, taking in $17.6 million and fending off an onslaught of debut films, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Reese Witherspoon's romantic comedy "Sweet Home Alabama" remained in second place with $14.1 million.
"Brown Sugar," a romance starring Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan as longtime pals who become lovers, was the strongest of six new wide releases, debuting at No. 3 with $11.1 million.
Among other new wide-release movies:
- "The Transporter," an action flick about a courier seeking revenge against mobsters, opened in fourth place with $9.2 million.
- "White Oleander," a mother-daughter drama with Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn and Alison Lohman, came in seventh with $5.7 million.
- "Tuck Everlasting," a fountain-of-youth fantasy with Sissy Spacek, William Hurt and Ben Kingsley, was No. 8 with $5.5 million.
- "Knockaround Guys," a mob thriller starring Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel and John Malkovich, was ninth with $5 million.
- "The Rules of Attraction," based on Bret Easton Ellis' novel about self-destructive twentysomethings, was No. 12 with $2.4 million.
Adam Sandler and Emily Watson's "Punch-Drunk Love," written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson ("Magnolia"), had a fantastic opening in limited release. A bizarre romance between misfits, "Punch-Drunk Love" took in $380,000 at just five theaters in New York City, Los Angeles and Toronto, an average of $76,000 a cinema.
By comparison, Madonna's new romance "Swept Away" - directed by her husband, Guy Ritchie - bombed with $375,000 at 196 theaters, averaging $1,913. The movie, a remake of a 1974 Italian film, received little praise from critics.
"Punch-Drunk Love" has been warmly received since its premiere at last spring's Cannes Film Festival, with Sandler's transformation from teen-flick clown to lovelorn oddball catching viewers by surprise.
Distributor Sony chose to roll the film out slowly to build word of mouth, rather than dumping it in thousands of theaters the way most big movies debut. "Punch-Drunk Love" expands gradually to wide release through early November.
"This is not an Adam Sandler youth picture. It's a grown-up movie that just needs to breathe a little before you go into wide release," said Tom Sherak, a partner in Revolution Films, which produced "Punch-Drunk Love."
Another acclaimed movie, Michael Moore's documentary "Bowling for Columbine," debuted robustly with $206,000 at eight theaters for a $25,750 average. Left-wing rabble-rouser Moore ("Roger & Me") blends humor and tragedy in examining America's gun culture.
The animated "Pokemon 4Ever" opened in 249 theaters and took in $675,000, averaging $2,711. Debuting in four theaters, Jerry Seinfeld's stand-up comedy documentary "Comedian" took in $61,000 for a healthy $15,250 average.
Overall, the top 12 films took in $93.2 million, up 20 percent from the same weekend last year.
The crowd of debuts came as studios squeezed in smaller releases before the rush of holiday blockbusters that start arriving next month.
"It was the moviegoing equivalent of rush hour this weekend," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "There were so many films, it was a smorgasbord from every rating and every genre."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Red Dragon," $17.6 million.
2. "Sweet Home Alabama," $14.1 million.
3. "Brown Sugar," $11.1 million.
4. "The Transporter," $9.2 million.
5. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," $7.9 million.
6. "The Tuxedo," $7 million.
7. "White Oleander," $5.7 million.
8. "Tuck Everlasting," $5.5 million.
9. "Knockaround Guys," $5 million.
10. "Barbershop," $4 million.
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