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<i>Pirates</i> in US and UK

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Los Angeles (Reuters): Walt Disney Co's Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest logged a third weekend as the most popular movie in North America while the latest films from directors M. Night Shyamalan and Ivan Reitman both bombed, according to studio estimates issued. The monster swashbuckler Pirates earned 35 million dollars, comfortably ahead of Sony Corp's animated creepfest Monster House, which exceeded expectations with a 23 million dollars debut. Shyamalan's mystical fantasy Lady in the Water followed at Number three with 18.2 million dollars, while Reitman's romantic comedy My Super Ex-Girlfriend was Number seven 7 with 8.7 million dollars. A fourth new release, director Kevin Smith's Clerks II was Number six with 9.6 million dollars, broadly in line with expectations according to estimate yesterday.

The total for Pirates sped to 321.7 million dollars. It set a record for a film to reach 300 million dollars 16 days. The old mark of 17 days was set last year by Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith. The last movie to enjoy a three-weekend stretch at Number one was the November 2005 release Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The performances of Pirates and Lady in the Water represent a double victory for Disney, which chose not to release Lady in the Water after distributing Shyamalan's previous three big movies. Disney last week ousted Shyamalan's nemesis, studio chief Nina Jacobson, in a major revamp that will see 650 people lose their jobs as the studio focuses more on family pictures.

The dubious honor of distributing Lady in the Water instead went to Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros Pictures, which has endured a challenging summer, beginning with Poseidon (box office returns of 60 million dollars), and continuing with the costly Superman Returns (178 million dollars to date), and The Lake House (51 million dollars). Shyamalan's last movie, The Village, opened to 50 million dollars in 2004 and stalled at 114 million dollars-half of what 2002's Signs finished with. Shyamalan's 1999 breakthrough, The Sixth Sense, earned 293.5 million dollars.

His new film revolves around a water nymph (Bryce Dallas Howard) who inhabits a swimming pool in an apartment complex. It received a critical pasting that got personal at times. The New York Post described Shyamalan as ''a crackpot with a messianic delusions.'' Even his hometown newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, said the movie was extremely silly. Warner Bros. said it had hoped for an opening in the mid-20 million dollars range. It cost in the mid-50 million dollars range to make. The studio's distribution president, Dan Fellman, said the movie did well on the coasts but ''definitely had some difficulties'' elsewhere.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend, which received only marginally better reviews than Lady in the Water, marked Reitman's first directing effort since the 2001 flop Evolution. Starring Uma Thurman as a needy superheroine, it was distributed by News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox, which had hoped for an opening in the mid-teens. Monster House, which cost 75 million dollars to make, revolves around three youngsters and a voracious haunted house. Executive produced by Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, the motion-capture film was bolstered by strong reviews. Sony said it had hoped to reach 20 million dollars. Clerks II, a follow-up to Smith's low-budget 1994 breakthrough, was distributed by closely held firms Weinstein Co.

In the UK, Pirates of the Caribbean added almost 4 million pounds to its treasure haul at UK cinemas keeping firmly at number one in the British box office charts, Screen International said. The Johnny Depp swashbuckler, which also stars British actress Keira Knightley, has now taken more than 31 million pounds since its launch three weeks ago. That was enough to keep the Disney sequel ahead of romantic comedy The Break-Up starring Vince Vaughan and Jennifer Aniston, which follows the exploits of a couple who refuse to move out of their joint home when they split up. Flexing his muscles in third spot was Superman Returns, featuring Brandon Routh as the man of steel, down a place from last week.

Stormbreaker, an action adventure about a 14-year-old boy recruited to join the British secret service, was a new entry in fourth place, with Garfield 2, featuring a plot about the animated feline's antics in England, debuting in fifth place. Animated animal comedy Over the Hedge dropped three to sixth with ''The Wind that Shakes the Barley,'' set in revolutionary Ireland, falling to seventh. Little Fish, a thriller starring Cate Blanchett, was a new entry in eighth, with Just my Luck, starring Lindsay Lohan and Chris Pine dropping to ninth. Bollywood movie Golmaal was in tenth.

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