LOS ANGELES -- The ''Shaft'' movie franchise of the '70s, updated in a new action film starring Samuel L. Jackson, was the weekend's biggest draw in North American theaters -- with $21.7 million in ticket sales.
''Gone in 60 Seconds,'' starring Nicolas Cage as an expert car thief, slowed down after its $25.3 million debut the previous weekend. It fell to second place with $14.9 million.
The weekend's other big debuts put up so-so numbers. The animated sci-fi epic ''Titan A.E.'' imploded with a weak $9.4 million to place fifth.
''Boys and Girls,'' a romantic comedy starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Claire Forlani, opened at No. 6 with $7 million.
''Titan A.E.'' opened in 2,733 theaters, about 400 more than ''Shaft,'' but did less than half the business, averaging $3,430 a cinema. ''Boys and Girls'' averaged $3,535 in 1,983 theaters. ''Shaft'' averaged $9,292.
Samuel L. Jackson stars as the coolest of detectives, with Richard Roundtree reprising his role as the original John Shaft, the uncle of Jackson's character of the same name. Vanessa Williams, Jeffrey Wright, Christian Bale and Toni Collette co-star.
The movie also reprises Isaac Hayes' Oscar-winning theme song from the original.
''Obviously, the original 'Shaft' became kind of a cultural icon, if you will,'' said Wayne Lewellen, head of distribution for Paramount, which released the movie. ''It's well-remembered, and the music has stood the test of time.''
Nostalgia for the old ''Shaft'' movies helped, but the new film is mainly a modern action flick whose audience is largely young males.
With Jackson's star power, the movie also has strong crossover appeal among white audiences, said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks movie-ticket sales.
''The movie didn't rely as much on the nostalgia factor,'' Dergarabedian said. ''With Sam Jackson and his following and a great marketing campaign, this really was a movie for anybody.''
Despite big-name voice talent including Matt Damon and Drew Barrymore, the PG-rated ''Titan A.E.'' failed to capture the teen crowd distributor 20th Century Fox had counted on. ''Titan A.E.'' follows a ragtag group of explorers searching for a legendary spaceship to save humanity.
Cartoon features are a tough sell for teen-agers, said Tom Sherak, the studio's head of distribution.
''They think it's for their younger brother,'' Sherak said. ''There's no question the numbers are disappointing. But school's out now in over two-thirds of the country, so hopefully we'll see some of them in theaters this week.''
Another animated flick, Disney's ''Fantasia/2000,'' began a four-week run in regular theaters with $2.8 million for the weekend. The movie took in $50 million during a four-month run at large-screen Imax theaters earlier this year.
The weekend earnings of the top 12 films generated $98 million, down 21 percent from the same 1999 weekend when ''Tarzan'' and the ''Austin Powers'' sequel led the way.
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