Sky Drowns Ocean as Cruise Movie Tops Box Office

Tom Cruise bested a band of crooks as Vanilla Sky opened atop the box office, sending Ocean's Eleven to No. 2.

An erotic thriller that reunites Cruise with Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe, Vanilla Sky took in $25 million over the weekend, according to industry estimates Sunday.

"That's a very good opening for December for a non-holiday weekend, and yet another number one opening for Tom Cruise," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks the box office. "Our expectations are that virtually every movie he opens in wide release should go to No. 1, and this is no exception."

The star-powered heist film Ocean's Eleven took in $23.1 million, and Not Another Teen Movie opened at No. 3 with $13.1 million. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone slipped to fourth place in its fifth weekend out, bringing in $9.9 million.

Overall, the weekend's top 12 films grossed an estimated $89.2 million, up 8.6 percent from last weekend but down almost 10 percent from the same weekend last year, when the romantic comedy What Women Want had a $33.7 million opening.

The week's receipts put Hollywood over the top of last year's all-time revenue record of $7.7 billion, Dergarabedian said. With the much-anticipated Lord of the Rings opening Wednesday and other big films following over the holidays, the year's box office should top $8 billion, he said.

Vanilla Sky, which also stars Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz and Jason Lee, is Crowe's adaptation of the 1998 Spanish film Open Your Eyes. It has Cruise playing a New York publishing magnate who undergoes a wild journey through reality-bending illusions after a car crash.

The R-rated film appeals to an older audience that skews female, said Wayne Lewellen, president of theatrical distribution for Paramount, which released the film. It played on 2,742 screens for a per-screen average of $9,117.

"We're very pleased with the opening. A $25 million opening is very good," said Lewellen. Cruise "certainly can assure you of a high-level opening."

The Royal Tenenbaums, opening in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles, raked in a whopping $50,813 per screen. The quirky tale of a family of failed geniuses directed by Wes Anderson and starring Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Anjelica Huston and Ben Stiller expands to 14 cities Friday, 25 cities Dec. 28 and goes into wide release Jan. 4.

Disney distribution head Chuck Viane said studio officials were thrilled last year when O Brother, Where Art Thou? opened in the same five theaters as The Royal Tenenbaums and did $28,000 a screen — a bit more than half the take of the new film.

"This is a classic case of a filmmaker and his movie living up to expectations," Viane said. "That subtle, subtle humor that Wes can deliver on, it's just great."

Overall movie theaters have done a brisk business since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, with box office revenues up 7 percent and attendance up 3 percent.

"We've actually had a boost there simply because people are staying close to home, they're not traveling as much, and the movies are looking good for people," Dergarabedian said.

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

1. Vanilla Sky, $25 million.

2. Ocean's Eleven, $23.1 million.

3. Not Another Teen Movie, $13.1 million.

4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, $9.9 million.

5. Behind Enemy Lines, $5.5 million.

6. Monsters, Inc., $5 million.

7. Spy Game, $2.4 million.

8. Black Knight, $2 million.

9. Shallow Hal, $1.4 million.

10. Amelie, $750,000.