By HANH NGUYEN
LOS ANGELES -- In a surprise over the weekend, it was the basketball drama "Coach Carter" and not the Jennifer Garner action flick "Elektra" that topped the box office.
The Paramount film starring Samuel L. Jackson as a basketball coach who benches his entire team for poor grades scored with approximately $23.6 million, according to Exhibitor Relations. If estimates hold, "Coach Carter" will be the second-highest earning film opening over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend after last year's "Along Came Polly," which earned $27.7 million.
Second through fourth place went to "Meet the Fockers" -- which dropped to No. 2 in the first time in four weeks since its debut -- with $19 million, the talking animal family comedy "Racing Stripes" with $14 million and the expansion of the Dennis Quaid office comedy "In Good Company," which took in $13.9 million.
"Elektra" barely made it into the Top 5 with a measly $12.5 million for its 3,000-plus screens. No doubt universally bad reviews, which even compared it poorly to its critically panned predecessor "Daredevil," helped moviegoers look elsewhere for entertainment.
The highest per-screen average goes to Clint Eastwood's boxing drama "Million Dollar Baby," which earned $14,262 for 122 screens. The film has been receiving critical raves.
Overall, the Top 12 films this weekend earned $115.7 million, a significant 23 percent increase over the box-office take the same weekend in 2004.