Overall, revenue was down for the first time in six weeks. And none of the new films blew anyone away.
Still, the return of the mouse, Stuart Little 2, may have earned Sony its sixth number-one opener this year.
The sequel's surprisingly wee $15.6 million was estimated to be only a whisker ahead of the $15.57 million hauled in by DreamWorks' gangster drama Road to Perdition, which remained in second place for a second week.
Studio executives say the real score will be settled Monday when final figures are totaled. Until then, they are prepared to call it a tie.
The latest adventure of the cute critter, voiced by Michael J. Fox, debuted considerably lower than business insiders had guessed. The original adaptation of E.B. White's kids classic, which eventually grossed $140 million, also opened with around $15 million just before Christmas in 1999. But it had a higher per-screen average ($5,218) than its sequel's $4,793 from 3,255 sites.
"We would have liked it to be bigger," Sony marketing exec Jeff Blake admitted to Reuters.
Meanwhile, K-19: The Widowmaker failed to surface successfully. The real-life story of an endangered Russian nuclear submarine, starring Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson as feuding officers, washed in fourth place with $13.1 million. The PG-13 Paramount release averaged just $4,632 at 2,828 screens.
Eight Legged Freaks really bugged out. The PG-13 Warners low-budget spoof of low-budget giant-insect flicks crawled in seventh with $6.7 million from a $2,648 average at 2,530 sites. Since it opened Wednesday, its gross has hit $9.2 million.
The best wide-release average was clocked by Tom Hanks' Road to Perdition. Adding 362 screens to occupy 2,159 sites, it only dropped 29 percent of its audience from its opening week and averaged $7,212. It can also take satisfaction from pushing the guys in the suits down to third place, as Men in Black II dropped 39 percent from last week's top slot--down to third place with an estimated $15 million. In three weeks, the alien-zapping sequel has earned $158.6 million.
But the best per-screen average belonged to a limited-release film, Tadpole, with $13,333 taken in at just six sites to earn $80,000. The Miramax release, shot on digital video, stars Aaron Stanford as a teen romantically tangled up with both his stepmom (Sigourney Weaver) and her best friend (Bebe Neuwirth.)
As expected, The Bourne Identity and Mr. Deeds grossed enough this weekend to become the ninth and 10th films this year to pass the coveted $100 million mark. Matt Damon's spy drama, despite falling off the top 10 list, earned another $3.9 million and has collected $105.7 million over six weeks. Adam Sandler's comedy about a rube who falls into money, earned $7.3 million in fifth place to reach $107.6 million after four weeks.
All told, the top 12 movies grossed an estimated $104.3 million, down 21 percent since last weekend and 23 percent since the same time last year. But with Austin Powers in Goldmember due to be exposed, the industry is confident that next weekend, everything will be on the rise again.
Until Monday's final results, here are the top 10 estimates compiled by box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations:
1. Stuart Little 2, $15.6 million
2. Road to Perdition, $15.57 million
3. Men in Black II, $15 million
4. K-19: The Widowmaker, $13.1 million
5. Mr. Deeds, $7.3 million
6. Reign of Fire, $7.1 million
7. Eight Legged Freaks, $6.7 million
8. Halloween: Resurrection, $5.4 million
9. Lilo & Stitch, $5.1 million
10. Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, $4.8 million