T3 Terminates Competition, Nemo Beats Neo

Warner Bros.’ $200 million sequel Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines easily took the No. 1 spot at the box office over the weekend with an estimated $72.5 million for the five-day holiday period. Fellow newcomers Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde and Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas offered little competition for Arnold and the long-awaited third installment in his popular sci-fi/action franchise.

While T3 is pulling in higher numbers than its predecessor, Terminator 2, its estimated $44 million Friday-Sunday take pales in comparison to other summer blockbuster openings like The Matrix Reloaded‘s $91.7 Million bow and X2: X-Men United‘s $85.5 million debut. Even Universal’s The Hulk opened bigger with a three-day grab of $62 million.

The return of Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods in MGM’s Legally Blonde 2 proved a popular alternative to the shoot ‘em up action of T3. The comedy came in at No. 2 with an estimated $39 million since opening on Wednesday. Its predecessor opened in the same ballpark and went on to make $96.5 million domestically.

It was rough sailing for DreamWorks’ animated epic Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas. Despite positive reviews, the film failed to find an audience, plundering just $10 million since Wednesday. The disappointing performance is further proof that the animated action/adventure genre has fallen out of favor with moviegoers. Films like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Titan A.E. and Treasure Planet have all taken a back seat to blockbuster comedies like Shrek, Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo.

Disney/Pixar’s Finding Nemo continues its reign as the top family film, netting another estimated $11 million to bring its cume to around $274.9 after six weeks. It has also earned the distinction of top movie of the 2003, surpassing The Matrix Reloaded and its estimated eight-week total of $271.9 million.

If Nemo manages to keep up at this pace, it is likely to replace Disney’s The Lion King as the highest grosing animated film of all time. Lion King clawed up $312.8 million domestically since debuting in 1994.

Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl opens this Wednesday and will do battle with Twentieth Century Fox’s comic book-inspired Sean Connery vehicle The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen for the weekend box office.