LOS ANGELES -- Eminem hip-hopped over the movie competition as his film debut "8 Mile" collected $51.2 million in its opening weekend.
That was more than double the amount of second-place "The Santa Clause 2," which had $24.7 million in its second week, but slightly less than Sunday's estimated returns of $54.5 million for "8 Mile."
The buzz-cut blond Eminem, whose hostile rhymes have sometimes featured fantasies about slaying his ex-wife and hiding her body, attracted not only his traditional teen fan base, but many curious non-fans to the story about a poor boy trying to make it in the world of hip-hop.
Universal Pictures reported that about 30 percent of the audience for the R-rated film was older than 25.
"I think everybody was wondering what all the fuss was about," said box-office analyst Robert Bucksbaum of Reel Source Inc. "People who wouldn't necessarily spend money on his album or a soundtrack, were just drawn in by the music, the critics and the director, Curtis Hanson."
Hanson shared a screenwriting Academy Award in 1998 for "L.A. Confidential," which he also directed. His other films have included "Wonder Boys" and "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle."
"8 Mile" co-stars Kim Basinger as Eminem's mother and Brittany Murphy as his love interest. The setting is the impoverished Eight Mile neighborhood of Detroit, where Eminem, whose real name is Marshall Mathers, was raised.
The film got positive reviews in The New York Times, Boston Globe, Rolling Stone, USA Today and Entertainment Weekly. Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan praised the film, but described it as a "somebody-up-there-likes-me" story that allows "audiences to feel the safety and security of familiarity that's simply not in the cards when listening to Eminem's earlier, more nasty and threatening work."
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