ce Age: The Meltdown kept raking in the cool millions to remain the main attraction at the multiplex for the second weekend in a row.

he animated prehistoric beasties iced a quartet of newcomers with $34.5 million from Friday to Sunday, per preliminary studio estimates. Added to its whopping $68 million premiere, the PG-rated Fox sequel’s current slush fund now stands at $116.4 million, making it the first movie this year to pass the $100 million mark.

Of the four new films in wide release, The Benchwarmers generated the most heat, opening in second place with $20.5 million. The baseball misfit comedy, starring Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Heder, easily outpaced Antonio Banderas’ teach-the-kids-to-tango movie Take the Lead ($12.7 million, third place), the all-star crime thriller Lucky Number Slevin ($7.1 million, fifth place) and the plus-sized Mo’Nique comedy Phat Girlz ($3.1 million, ninth place).

Despite dropping 49 percent from its mammoth debut, Ice Age: The Meltdown still had the top per-site average in the top 10, with $8,692 at 3,969 sites, and Fox is anticipating the ‘toon will continue to hold up strong during the upcoming Easter holiday.

Sony’s PG-13 The Benchwarmers attracted a young demo, with 60 percent of ticket buyers under 21 and evenly split between male and female. Hurled into 3,274 sites, the underdog ballplayer farce averaged an above-expectations $6,261.

Based on a true story, Take the Lead features Banderas as Pierre Dulaine, whose story was previously chronicled in Mad Hot Ballroom, the hit documentary about the power of dance to change lives in a New York high school. Hoofed into 3,009 locations, the semi-fictionalized PG-13 New Line release only averaged $4,246.

Lucky Number Slevin, in which Josh Hartnett is mistaken for a baddie by a bunch of baddies, opened in 1,984 theaters and averaged $3,594. The R-rated MGM flick, which costars Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley as rival crime bosses, and features showy turns by Bruce Willis and Lucy Liu, actually had a better average than the fourth-place finisher, Universal’s bank-heist thriller Inside Man, which grossed $9.2 million from a $3,209 average at 2,867 sites to bring its haul to $66.1million.

Phat Girlz, in which Mo’Nique displays the virtues of being generously proportioned, was also in more limited release. Opening at just 1,056 sites, the PG-13 Fox Searchlight release averaged $2,936 per screen, pulling its biggest audiences in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore (Mo’ Nique’s old stomping grounds).

Meanwhile, in really limited release, Friends with Money, a wry look at the California rich life through the experiences of three woman ( Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand and Joan Cusack) who have it and one ( Jennifer Aniston) who doesn’t, was clearly in the money. The R-rated Sony Pictures Classic release averaged $22,739 at just 28 sites for $636,681.

At 48 sites, Think Films’ R-rated When Do We Eat?, about a dysfunctional family gathered for Passover, munched up $3,053 per screen for $146,536,

At just five sites, Focus Features’ PG-rated On a Clear Day, about a Scotsman who tries to find meaning in life by swimming the English Channel, stroked to a $3,848 average for $19,239.

Meantime, while still at only 300 theaters, Thank You for Smoking registered in 10th place with $2.4 million from a healthy $8,000 per-site average. The R-rated Fox Searchlight release, starring Aaron Eckhart, will expand to over 1,000 sites next weekend. It has grossed $6.2 million in four weeks.

Overall the top 12 movies grossed $105.1 million, down 20 percent from last weekend, when Ice Age: The Meltdown set a March record, but a healthy 33 percent above this time last year, when Sahara had a barren debut.

Here’s a rundown of the top-grossing films based on estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations; final figures are due Monday:

1. Ice Age: The Meltdown, $34.5 million 
2. The Benchwarmers, $20.5 million 
3. Take the Lead, $12.7 million 
4. Inside Man, $9.2 million 
5. Lucky Number Slevin, $7.1 million 
6. Failure to Launch, $4.1 million 
7. ATL, $3.7 million 
8. V for Vendetta, $3.3 million 
9. Phat Girlz, $3.1 million 
10. Thank You for Smoking, $2.4 million

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *