Sony's "Maid," a romantic comedy co-starring Ralph Fiennes, performed in line with expectations amid a lack of rival films aimed at adult females in the marketplace. It also represented the best debut for a Lopez film, topping the $17.5 million opening for "The Cell" two years ago.
The studio had marketed "Maid" with a strong focus on Lopez and had used sneak previews to build awareness. "It's a very respectable opening that shows her appeal to female audiences," said industry analyst Arthur Rockwell of Rockwell Capital Management.
Paramount's opening of "Star Trek: Nemesis" came in at the lower end of forecasts with $18.8 million at 2,711 sites. The 10th offering in the series had been expected to post a figure closer to the $30.6 million record set by 1996's "Star Trek: First Contact."
"It looks as if 'Nemesis' was able to get the 'Trek' audience to come out but not go much further than that," Rockwell noted.
20th Century Fox's comedy-drama "Drumline," set in the world of high school marching bands, opened with a solid $13.1 million at 1,833 theaters and posted the best per-location average in the top 10 with $7,119. Reviews were generally positive.
"The number for 'Drumline' looks like a pleasant surprise since the film seems like it's going after a narrow niche," Rockwell said. "It certainly got its target audience out."
MGM's fourth weekend of "Die Another Day" followed in fourth with $7.5 million at 3,377 sites to hike its 24-day total to $131.6 million. "Day" became the top domestic grossing James Bond film over the weekend, surpassing "The World Is Not Enough" at $126.9 million.
Disney's opening of "The Hot Chick," starring Rob Schneider as a teenage girl who wakes up in the body of a man, finished a close fifth with $7.47 million at 2,217 theaters. The comedy looks unlikely to perform as well as Schneider's previous successes with "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" and "The Animal," which ended their runs with $66 million and $56 million, respectively.
Warner Bros.' fifth weekend of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" came in sixth with $6.2 million at 3,025 theaters as it fell 39 percent from its fourth weekend. That performance lifted its 31-day total to $222.4 million, placing it 32nd on the all-time list behind "Rush Hour 2."
"Secrets" is now $95 million behind last year's "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
Warner's second weekend of "Analyze That" followed with $5.3 million at 2,635 as the sequel continued to post disappointing numbers, falling 52 percent from its opening weekend.
Disney's seventh weekend of "The Santa Clause 2" came in eighth with $4 million at 2,207 theaters to lift its total to $125.4 million, less than $20 million behind the final domestic total for the 1994 original. But its third weekend of "Treasure Planet" remained unable to draw significant numbers as the expensive animated comedy landed in ninth with $3 million at 2,192 sites.
Universal's second weekend of "Empire" rounded out the top 10 with $2.8 million at 869 sites. Sony's third weekend of "Eight Crazy Nights" came in 11th with $1.8 million at 2,177 theaters, followed by IFC's 35th weekend of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with $1.7 million at 1,230 screens, pushing its total to $215.6 million.
Overall business was moderate with the top 10 totaling $87 million, just slightly ahead of the same weekend last year when "Vanilla Sky" led with $25 million. The year-to-date total has topped $8.4 billion and remains 12 percent ahead of the same period of 2001.
The box office should see a major jump on Wednesday when New Line opens "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," the second in its three "Rings" films. Last year's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings" posted an impressive $313 million in domestic gross, placing it ninth on that list.
Three other wide releases open Friday -- Miramax's historical drama "Gangs of New York," Paramount's animated comedy "The Wild Thornberrys" and Warner's romantic comedy "Two Weeks Notice."
On the art-house circuit, New Line's opening of Jack Nicholson's drama-comedy "About Schmidt" generated $283,000 at six theaters and United Artists' drama "Evelyn," starring Pierce Brosnan, took in $72,000 at 15 screens. MGM's 10th weekend of "Bowling for Columbine" grossed $526,000 at 234 theaters to lift its total to $13.7 million.