Originally created 03/04/03

Rap, martial arts pairing helps "Cradle" top the box office



LOS ANGELES -- The pairing of a rap star and a martial arts heavyweight pushed "Cradle 2 The Grave" to the top of the box office.

The high-octane action-adventure film featuring rapper DMX as a gang leader and martial arts star Jet Li as a Taiwanese intelligence officer took in $17.1 million in its opening weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.

"Cradle" follows DMX and Li as they form an unlikely alliance in a film that mixes stolen diamonds, kidnapping and a plot to distribute a deadly new weapon of war.

"That combination of rap and martial arts stars equals big box office pretty consistently," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

"Old School" aged well in its second weekend, holding onto second place with $13.9 million. The comedy stars "Saturday Night Live" alum Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn and Luke Wilson as thirtysomething partiers who form a college fraternity.

"Daredevil," Ben Affleck's superhero adventure, dropped to third place with $11 million after two weeks in the No. 1 slot.

The romantic comedy "How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days," with $10.1 million, and the musical "Chicago," with $8.1 million, rounded out the top five.

"Chicago," a front-runner for a best picture Oscar, crossed the $100 million mark over the weekend, making it the highest-grossing musical since "Grease" in 1978. It's now earned $105.2 million in North American theaters.

Serious films continued to struggle against lighter fare.

"People are still enjoying the escapism," Dergarabedian said.

"The Life of David Gale," starring Kevin Spacey as a capital-punishment opponent who lands on death row, earned $4.4 million, finishing in eighth place. The Civil War epic "Gods and Generals" earned $2.8 million to finish ninth.

The weekend's top 12 films grossed an estimated $85.8 million. With just one major studio debut for the weekend, that was a drop of almost 10 percent from last weekend, when four big films opened in the top 10. The weekend box office was up 4.6 percent from the same weekend last year.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Cradle 2 The Grave," $17.1 million.

2. "Old School," $13.9 million.

3. "Daredevil," $11 million.

4. "How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days," $10.1 million.

5. "Chicago," $8.1 million.

6. "The Jungle Book 2," $6.8 million.

7. "Shanghai Knights," $4.8 million.

8. "The Life of David Gale," $4.4 million.

9. "Gods and Generals, $2.8 million.

10. "The Recruit," $2.6 million.