Ice Age: The Meltdown was more like a tsunami as it smashed box office records over the weekend, far surpassing analysts' predictions. Not only was its (estimated) $70.5-million domestic debut (it earned an additional $43.4 million in 47 other countries) the biggest for any film ever to open in March, it ranked second only to The Passion of the Christ as the biggest film to open on a non-holiday, non-summer weekend. Final figures out later today (Monday) will determine whether the film will also become second only to Shrek 2 ($108 million) as the biggest animated film opening of all time. (The Incredibles earned $70.5 million, and Finding Nemo, $70.3 million.) The original Ice Age raked in $46.3 million in 2002. Fox distribution chief Bruce Snyder told USA Today that the studio had "hoped and prayed for $55 million." The box office also saw another film earn far more than analysts had forecast. The hip-hop/roller-skating movie ATL opened with an estimated $12.5 million at only 1,602 theaters. On the other hand, Slither became the first horror film of the year to perform poorly at the box office, earning only $3.7 million, well below expectations. Basic Instinct 2, starring Sharon Stone, was expected to tank -- and it did, in monumental proportions, earning only $3.2 million. (Commented Entertainment Weekly's box-office writer Dave Karger: "It's doubtful Stone thought she'd ever open a big film and tie with the second weekend of a film called Larry the Cable Guy.") Last weekend's top film, Spike Lee's Inside Man dropped 46 percent to land in second place with $15.7 million. Overall, the top 12 films took in about $136.4 million, up nearly 40 percent from the same weekend a year ago.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:
1. Ice Age: The Meltdown, $70.5 million; 2. Inside Man, $15.7 million; 3. ATL, $12.5 million; 4. Failure to Launch, $6.6 million; 5. V for Vendetta, $6.5 million; 6. Stay Alive, $4.58 million; 7. She's the Man, $4.57 million; 8. Slither, $3.7 million; 9. The Shaggy Dog, $3.5 million; 10 (tie). Basic Instinct 2, $3.2 million; 10 (tie). Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector, $3.2 million.