'Changing Lanes' Takes Right Turn at the Box Office
With the mounting tension of the April 15 tax deadline, more people chose to blow off steam by watching Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Affleck go at it in the road rage drama Changing Lanes than by seeing Cameron Diaz shake her Sweetest Thing during the weekend ending April 14.Changing Lanes cut off the competition with $17.1 million from 2,613 theaters, 70% of its audience older than 25. Props must go to the Paramount marketing department, which saw similar success with last April's Along Came a Spider ($16.7 million opening). Once again the studio proved it's the master at launching thrillers, even when they're not quite thrillers such as Changing Lanes. Though the ad campaign got to a cold start, it hit full bore just a couple of days before the Friday release with non-stop commercials that featured more punch and a clearer sense of what the movie was about than previous ones. Rave reviews only added to the momentum.

Afflicted by the influx of adult fare in the market place, Panic Room relinquished the top spot as it fell 42% to $10.6 million, slightly steeper than its 39% dip last weekend. After 17 days of release, the $48 million Jodie Foster thriller has grabbed $73.4 million and it should crack the $100 million mark by the end of its run.

The Sweetest Thing opened on a sour note. The R-rated romantic comedy for which Diaz earned a career-best $15 million payday wooed $9.4 million from 2,670 venues. With ads flooding the TV airwaves for weeks in advance, another fortune was spent on the marketing campaign. Diaz was all the movie had to distinguish itself, and she had never carried a movie on her own before. Her scantily clad body and the blatant references to her biggest hits There's Something About Mary and My Best Friend's Wedding were the centerpieces of the ads. That wasn't enough to lure audiences, even though historically they've been inclined to check out a chick flick during tax time, such as last year's Bridget Jones's Diary ($10.7 million opening).

Ice Age thawed 37% to $8.6 million, hitting $151.6 million in the process after a mere 31 days in release. The Rookie was still in the game with $8.1 million, off 31% for $45.3 million in 17 days. The Ashley Judd-Morgan Freeman thriller High Crimes fell 46% to $7.5 million in its second trial. By comparison, another Freeman thriller Along Came a Spider eased 31% in its same session last April. Crimes has committed $25 million in 10 days.

Praise from the "masters of suspense" (James Cameron, Sam Raimi and Stephen King) wasn't enough to get actor Bill Paxton's directorial debut Frailty off the ground. The horror thriller exorcised just $4.2 million from 1,497 theaters, weakened by ads that made it look rather pedestrian in a marketplace crowded with adult fare.

National Lampoon's Van Wilder tumbled 44% to $4.1 million in its sophomore session. While not exactly leggy, it's less precipitous than the drops of such other recent R-rated youth comedies as Sorority Boys and Slackers. Produced for a reported $5 million, the Artisan release has guzzled down $13.7 million in 10 days. Also in its second weekend, the $45 million ensemble comedy Big Trouble lived up to its name, crashing 54% to $1.6 million for a small tally of $6 million in 10 days.

In limited release, the latest quirky comedy from Being John Malkovich scribe Charles Kaufman Human Nature floundered in its opening salvo, gathering $297,340 from 224 venues for an anemic $1,327 per site average. Out of the gate, 1999's Malkovich grossed $637,721 from 25 theaters, averaging $25,509, and went on to earn $22.9 million.

Click here to view this weekend's Top 60 chart.

The top 12 pictures grossed an $81.8 million, down 12.6% from last weekend but up 8.5% over the same frame last year when Spy Kids topped the chart for the third weekend in a row with $12.5 million, down 27% on its way to $112.7 million. Along Came a Spider held onto second place with $11.6 million en route to $74.1 million. Bridget Jones's Diary made a No. 3 entry with $10.7 million from 1,611 theaters, enjoying a leggy run to $71.5 million. The David Spade comedy Joe Dirt dug up $8 million from 2,638, petering out at $27.1 million. Family drama Kingdom Come delivered $7.6 million from 1,111 on course to $23.2 million, while Josie and the Pussycats played to 2,556 nearly-empty venues, drumming up just $4.6 million and $14.3 million by the end of its tour.

Next weekend, business should continue to outpace last year with the arrival of The Mummy prequel The Scorpion King starring Dwayne Johnson at over 3,000 theaters and the Sandra Bullock serial killer thriller Murder by Numbers at over 2,300.