"National Treasure" shines at crowded box office

LOS ANGELES Sun Dec 23, 2007 2:17pm EST

1 of 2. Nicolas Cage in a scene from 'National Treasure: Book of Secrets' in an image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Nicolas Cage topped the North American box office for the second time this year on Sunday with "National Treasure: Book of Secrets," a sequel to the biggest movie of his career.

The action-adventure led a crowded field of high-powered newcomers to sell an estimated $45.5 million worth of tickets since opening Friday, distributor Walt Disney Pictures said.

The three-day sum, which was in line with expectations, compares with a $35 million launch for 2004's "National Treasure," which went on to make $173 million. Cage spent two weeks at No. 1 in February with "Ghost Rider," which started with $45 million on its way to $116 million.

Last weekend's champion, the Will Smith sci-fi thriller "I Am Legend," slipped to No. 2 with $34.2 million, taking the 10-day haul for the Warner Bros. release to $137.5 million.

The Twentieth Century Fox kids movie "Alvin and the Chipmunks," was also down one spot, to No. 3 with $29 million, and a 10-day total of $84.7 million.

New releases took four of the next five places, but none cracked the $10 million mark: the fact-based political comedy "Charlie Wilson's War" at No. 4 with $9.6 million, the Johnny Depp musical "Sweeney Todd" at No. 5 with $9.35 million, the Hilary Swank romance "P.S. I Love You" at No. 6 with a modest $6.5 million, and the musical biopic spoof "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" at No. 8 with a disappointing $4.1 million.

Additionally, the teen comedy "Juno" rose one place to No. 10 in its third weekend of limited release with $3.4 million. The Fox Searchlight release, starring Canadian actress Ellen Page, has earned $6.4 million to date.

Along with the bloody musical adaptation "Sweeney Todd" and "Charlie Wilson's War," which stars Oscar laureates Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman in a stranger-than-fiction tale of political intrigue, "Juno" is an early awards-season favorite.

Walt Disney Pictures is a unit of Walt Disney Co. Warner Bros. Pictures, which also released "P.S. I Love You," is a unit of Time Warner Inc. Fox and Fox Searchlight are units of News Corp.

"Sweeney Todd" was released by DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures, both units of Viacom Inc. "Charlie Wilson's War" was released by Universal Pictures, a unit of General Electric Co's NBC Universal. "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" was released by Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp.

(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Eric Beech)

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