The Associated Press
Critics were cat-haters but Dr. Seuss the Cat in the Hat had families purring.
Starring Mike Myers as the whiskered trickster, The Cat in the Hat overcame scathing reviews to debut as the No. 1 weekend movie with ticket sales of $40.1 million, according to estimates Sunday.
Halle Berry's supernatural thriller Gothika premiered in second place with $19.6 million while the previous weekend's top movie, Elf, slipped to No. 3 with $19.1 million.
Playing in 3,464 theaters, The Cat in the Hat averaged $11,570 a cinema, compared to $8,237 in 2,382 theaters for Gothika.
Critics were even more unkind to The Cat in the Hat than they were to the earlier live-action Dr. Seuss adaptation, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. That movie had a $55.1 million debut, and survived bad reviews to become 2000's top-grossing flick with $260 million.
The Cat in the Hat may hold up well through the holidays, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
"Little kids, they want what they want, and they don't care about reviews," Dergarabedian said. "Parents do have some say in the decision, but most of the time they'll just go along with the kids."
For adult crowds, the drama 21 Grams opened impressively in limited release. A film-festival hit, 21 Grams took in $256,434 in just eight New York City and Los Angeles theaters, averaging a whopping $32,054. It expands to about 60 theaters Wednesday.
The film stars Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Benicio Del Toro as strangers tossed together in a somber exploration of grief, vengeance and mortality.
The Matrix Revolutions continued its box-office swoon, taking in $6.7 million, down 59 percent from the previous weekend. It likely will top out at barely half the $282 million gross of its predecessor, last spring's The Matrix Reloaded.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Dr. Seuss' the Cat in the Hat," $40.1 million.
2. "Gothika," $19.6 million.
3. "Elf," $19.1 million.
4. "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World," $15.2 million.
5. "Love Actually," $9.1 million.
6. "The Matrix Revolutions," $6.7 million.
7. "Brother Bear," $5.5 million.
8. "Looney Tunes: Back in Action," $4.1 million.
9. "Scary Movie 3," $3.3 million.
10. "Radio," $2.6 million.
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