When Sony released its preliminary weekend box-office figures Sunday, the studio pegged its Stuart Little 2 as the new number-one movie, squeaking by DreamWorks' Road to Perdition $15.6 million to $15.57 million.
A day later, with final studio tallies out, the talking rodent was Road kill.
According to the list of Top 10 films compiled by Exhibitor Relations from official studio counts, Road to Perdition earned $15.4 million from Friday to Sunday, while Stuart Little 2 took in $15.1 million.
However, looking at per-site averages, the contest wasn't even close. Road to Perdition averaged $7,139 at 2,159 theaters. Stuart Little 2 averaged $4,644 at 3,255 theaters.
The studio had hoped to score its sixth number-one opener of the year with Stuart Little 2. The 1999 original, also featuring the voice of Michael J. Fox as the titular mouse, eventually grossed $140 million. While it, too, debuted with about $15 million, it had a substantially higher per-theater average ($5,218) than its sequel.
Sony can take some consolation in knowing that most Stuart Little 2 moviegoers were families with children, meaning the film did the bulk of its business during budget matinees and probably sold more tickets than Road to Perdition, a dark R-rated film geared toward adults.
This is the second instance this summer where the weekend estimates--extrapolated through tracking data, ticket sales for Friday and Saturday and a healthy dash of guesswork--have cast doubt on the box-office horse race.
A month ago, 20th Century Fox's Minority Report and Disney's Lilo & Stitch were jockeying for number one after finishing the weekend in a virtual dead heat. It was only until final figures came out the following Monday that Fox could claim a slight victory over its rival.
Meanwhile, this weekend's two other big-time newcomers, Harrison Ford's K-19: The Widowmaker and the B-grade horror spoof Eight Legged Freaks, both underwhelmed.
Based on the true story of an imperiled Russian submarine, K-19 ended the weekend with just $12.8 million in fourth place--surprisingly low for a Ford action flick. The bugged-out Freaks finished even lower, down in seventh place with only $6.5 million.
It was a pretty gloomy weekend all around. Total box-office receipts were about $103 million, off 22 percent from last week and down 24 percent from the same time last year. Its the first downtick after six consecutive weeks of higher grosses.
There were some bright spots, however. The Bourne Identity ($105.6 million in six weeks) and Mr. Deeds ($107.6 million in four weeks) became the ninth and 10th films this year to pass the coveted $100 million mark.
And, in the arthouse circuit, Miramax's Tadpole had an incredible per-theater average of $13,447 at just six sites. The low-budget Sundance hit, stars Aaron Stanford as a teen romantically tangled up with both his stepmom (Sigourney Weaver) and her best friend (Bebe Neuwirth), grossed $80,682.
Here is the final Top 10 rundown, according to Exhibitor Relations:
1. Road to Perdition, $15.4 million
2. Stuart Little 2, $15.1 million
3. Men in Black II, $14.6 million
4. K-19: The Widowmaker, $12.8 million
5. Reign of Fire, $7.32 million
6. Mr. Deeds, $7.31 million
7. Eight Legged Freaks, $6.5 million
8. Halloween: Resurrection, $5.5 million
9. Lilo & Stitch, $4.9 million
10. Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course, $4.7 million