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Young Crowd Drives 'Silent Hill' to Top Box Office Spot

A real scary movie bumped off the spoof variety at the box office.

Sony's fright flick "Silent Hill," set in an eerie ghost town, debuted with $20.2 million. It took over the top spot from the Weinstein Co. comedy "Scary Movie 4," which slipped to No. 2 with $17 million in its second weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The White House assassination tale "The Sentinel," a 20th Century Fox thriller starring Michael Douglas, Kiefer Sutherland and Eva Longoria, opened in third place with $14.65 million.

The weekend's other new major debut, Universal's George W. Bush-"American Idol" parody "American Dreamz" featuring Dennis Quaid and Hugh Grant, debuted a weak No. 8 with $3.7 million.

After two weekends in limited release, Jennifer Aniston's comic drama "Friends With Money" expanded nationwide and came in at No. 10 with $3.55 million. Aniston plays a down-on-her-luck housecleaner with three well-to-do pals ( Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener and Joan Cusack).

Lifted by box-office leaders that included 20th Century Fox's animated hit "Ice Age: The Meltdown" at No. 4 with $12.8 million, Hollywood revenues rose for the fifth-straight weekend.

The top-12 movies took in $100.4 million, up 22 percent from the same weekend last year, when "The Interpreter" debuted at No. 1 with $22.8 million.

After a prolonged dry spell in 2005, when movie attendance fell 8 percent, Hollywood is on solid footing this year heading into a potentially big summer. A surge over the past month has attendance running 4 percent ahead of last year's, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

"This is exactly where the industry wants to be as we approach the biggest moviegoing season of the year," Dergarabedian said. "It's night and day from where we were last year."

The industry has a stronger early-summer lineup this time compared to last year, when Hollywood got off to a slow start with "Kingdom of Heaven," "Kicking and Screaming" and "Monster-in-Law."

Coming over the first three weekends this May are Tom Cruise's "Mission: Impossible III," Tom Hanks and Ron Howard's "The Da Vinci Code," the animated comedy "Over the Hedge" and "Poseidon," a remake of "The Poseidon Adventure."

"Not only has the box office continued to be up, and up significantly the last several weeks, but we're headed into what looks to be a terrific May," said Rory Bruer, head of distribution at Sony, which is releasing "The Da Vinci Code."

Sony scored its fourth No. 1 opening of the year with "Silent Hill," starring Radha Mitchell as a mom hunting for her ailing daughter in a mysterious town. Along with "Silent Hill," two of Sony's other top debuts were horror movies that were not shown to critics beforehand, part of a growing trend where studios skip critic screenings when they expect bad reviews.

Two-thirds of the audience for "Silent Hill" was under 25, an age group less likely to pay attention to reviews, and the horror genre tends to pull in fans over opening weekend no matter what the critics say.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.

1. "Silent Hill," $20.2 million.

2. "Scary Movie 4," $17 million.

3. "The Sentinel," $14.65 million.

4. "Ice Age: The Meltdown," $12.8 million.

5. "The Wild," $8.05 million.

6. "The Benchwarmers," $7.3 million.

7. "Take the Lead," $4.25 million.

8 (tie). "American Dreamz," $3.7 million.

8 (tie). "Inside Man," $3.7 million.

10. "Friends With Money," $3.55 million.