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<i>X-Men</i> Sequel Tops US Most Popular Movie List - 2003-05-07

"X" marks the spot for movie audiences worldwide and the comic book action sequel smashes into first place on the box office chart. Also new this week: a romantic fantasy for the pre-teen crowd. Alan Silverman lists the top five films at North American theaters starting with a youthful adventure at number five.

In Holes, teenagers in trouble with the law are sentenced to a desert work camp where they spend the day digging holes (it builds character, says the warden); but there may also be a buried treasure hidden under the sand. Based on the popular novel by Louis Sachar and adapted for the screen by the author, Holes ends up in fifth place.

In Anger Management hothead Adam Sandler is sentenced to undergo unorthodox therapy at the hands of Jack Nicholson who says the challenge and fun is to give audiences something they have n-o-t seen before.

"Almost anyone can give a good or representative performance when you're unknown," says Nicholson. " It's just easier. The real 'pro' game of acting is, after you're known, to 'un-Jack' the character [in my case] and get the audience to reinvest in a new and specific fictional person. It's part of the craft. In order to keep growing as an actor you have to keep from just relying on the devices that work for you."

Anger Management remains a solid hit at number four.

Ten strangers find their fates connected at a lonely motel on a dark and stormy night in Identity The ensemble cast includes John Cusack, Ray Liota and Amanda Peet; and James Mangold directs the psychological thriller.

"For me what's really interesting about this genre is that it's really the only genre where, even on a commercial level the audience expects something they haven't seen before," says Mangold." That's really exciting and it makes you think all the way through about how you're structuring this thing and what you're revealing when."

Identity opened in first place last week, but is bumped from the top by the two new entries on the chart.

A TV personality popular with the pre-teen set (especially young girls) makes the leap to the big screen.

Her coin splashes into Rome's Trevi Fountain and vivacious American teen Lizzie McGuire is off on a romantic adventure in the eternal city. The Lizzie Mcguire Movie stars Hilary Duff as the character she also plays on the popular TV show.

"The process is so much different between making a movie and making a TV show, but the other difference is that she kinds of grows up. She has lots of learning experiences. She kind of finds herself and she goes through a lot, so I think that's how it's different," says Duff.

She also gets to live out every teenager's 'rock star' fantasy. The Lizzie Mcguire Movie debuts in second place; but number one belongs to an action fantasy sequel that brings back the mutant comic book characters from the 2000 blockbuster X-Men.

X2: X-Men United reunites the cast from the original movie, including Hugh Jackman as battling Wolverine and Halle Berry returns as climate-controlling Storm.

"It was like 'old home week.' We just picked right up where we left off and we all have a lot fun together," Berry says. " It's a real eclectic group of people from all over the world. We learn a lot. We laugh a lot and we're really comfortable with each other. Then we have some new characters we had to initiate, but we did."

With a staggering $86 million in domestic ticket sales (that's almost double the combined totals for the rest of the top 10 films) and another $70 million from its simultaneous worldwide opening X2: X-Men United starts its run as the new most popular movie at North American theaters.