Wild Wild West shot blanks with the critics, but managed to rope in customers anyway.

As one of two high-profile midweek openers on Wednesday, the roundly panned Will Smith/mechanical-spider Western earned an estimated $7 million, according to the box-office watchers at Exhibitor Relations Inc.

Potty-mouthed toon South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, the other new flick, cussed its way to a one-day take of $4.8 million, the firm said.

Paul Dergarabedian, of the Los Angeles-based Exhibitor Relations, termed both debuts "pretty solid."

Fox, meanwhile, set Phantom Menace's overall take at $357.76 million through Wednesday night. With George Lucas' space epic currently selling about $2 million worth of tickets a day, that means the movie is virtually assured today of moving up to No. 4 on the all-time earners list and bumping 1993's Jurassic Park ($357.78 million) down a notch in the process.

A hall-of-famer or no, the Star Wars prequel isn't expected to be shooting for No. 1 over the long Fourth of July weekend. That race is shaping up as a dogfight between last week's champ, the Adam Sandler comedy Big Daddy, and, yes, Wild Wild West.

Some observers peg the dissed West as the likely winner, with a six-day haul of $50 million-ish possible.

Dergarabedian said the film did "pretty good [on Wednesday] considering the negative reviews." Of course, by comparison, Will Smith's last summer movie, 1997's Men in Black, opened with $14 million. And 1998's summer king, Armageddon, debuted on a Wednesday with $9.7 million.

"This is not a runaway blockbuster," Dergarabedian said of West.

South Park, showing in 1,200-odd fewer theaters than West, is off to a good start--"considering it's an R-rated animated movie," the box-office tracker said.

The feature, based on the cult cable series, hits screens just weeks after theater owners, inspired by President Clinton, vowed to card ticket buyers and really, really bar youngsters, under age 17, from R-rated films. Since South Park stars a bunch of cute-looking (if bad-word-spewing) animated kiddies, the watch is on to see if real kiddies will sneak into screenings.

So far, results are mixed. News organizations from the Associated Press to the New York Post have staked out theaters--and found that some kids are getting carded (and admitted) and some kids aren't.

"I don't know what the big deal is," Jose Tamayo, 16, groused to the AP after being turned away from a South Park show in Hollywood.