Red Dragon took another bite out of the box office, remaining in the top slot with $17.7 million.

The latest Hannibal the Cannibal thriller remained number one despite a slew of new films debuting over the weekend and a 52 percent drop from its opening weekend feast. The prequel captured 19 percent of the total earned by the top 12 films and has now tallied $63.3 million in two weeks of release, according to studio figures released Monday.

Another holdover, Reese Witherspoon's romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama, charted in second place with $14.3 million, bringing its three-week total to $84.7 million.

With Red Dragon and Reese finishing 1-2, that left a half-dozen newbies, each released in more than 1,000 theaters and targeted at very different demos, competing for also-ran status.

The most successful of the bunch was Brown Sugar, a soft-touch romance starring good-lookin' Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan lookin' good in the world of hip-hop. The PG-13 Fox Searchlight release bopped into third place with $10.7 million. Its $7,827 average at just 1,372 screens, was easily the best of the weekend's wide releases. (Dragon averaged $5,250 at 3,363 sites and Alabama $4,305 at 3,313 theaters.)

The Transporter, an action overload flick, starring British bloke Jason Statham, was in fourth place with $9.1 million. The PG-13 Fox release averaged $3,540 from 2,572 screens.

White Oleander, the femme-aimed emotional saga, in which Alison Lohman is bounced around among Michelle Pfeiffer, Robin Wright Penn and Renée Zellweger in a search for motherly love, failed to blossom. The PG-13 Warners release opened in seventh place with $5.6 million, averaging $3,714 average per 1,510 screens.

In eighth place, the children's fable Tuck Everlasting had a higher per screen average--$4,446--but was only playing at 1,185 sites, leaving the Disney movie about the ageless family with just a $5.3 million gross.

In ninth place was Knockaround Guys, a long-on-the-shelf mobster flick that has finally earned release because one of its knockaround guys, namely Vin Diesel, has since become a major star. But Diesel power failed to drive moviegoers to the film, so the R-rated New Line release only knocked up $5 million, from a $2,778 average at 1,806 sites.

The Rules of Attraction attracted so little interest in didn't even crack the top 10. The R-rated Lions Gate release, starring Dawson's Creek's James Van Der Beek as ringleader of a bad bunch of college coeds, slacked in at number 12 with just $2.5 million. It averaged a mere $1,762 average on 1,430 screens.

Adding to the mix--as studios unload product before the holiday biggies hit the screens--were another six new movies in limited release.

By far the most successful was Punch-Drunk Love, an unusual love story from Boogie Nights auteur Paul Thomas Anderson in which Adam Sandler shows off his serious acting chops opposite Emily Watson, who has already established hers. At just five theaters, the R-rated Sony release averaged a truly impressive $73,441 to earn $367,000.

Compare that to the minuscule $1,806 per screen at 196 theaters for a total of just $354,000 for Swept Away, Madonna's latest big-screen disaster. The film, a remake of an unusual, politically charged Italian romance directed by hubby Guy Ritchie, was targeted by a lawsuit that attempted to block the film's release. Considering the less than tepid box office and Sony's reluctance to roll out the film in more theaters in coming weeks, maybe the injunction would have spared all parties--audiences, included--the shipwreck of a flick.

Even two documentaries swept aside Swept Away. Bowling for Columbine, iconoclastic humorist Michael Moore's probe into violence in America, averaged $26,144 at eight sites, bringing the R-rated MGM/UA release $209,000. And Comedian, which tags along with Jerry Seinfeld as he explores the business of being funny, averaged $15,056 at four theaters to carry the R-rated Miramax release a total of $60,000.

The optimistically titled Pokémon 4Ever, meanwhile, looks to be have a finite shelf life. The G-rated Miramax 'toon carded up only $717,000 at 249 screens, an average of $2,880. However, Pikachu and pals did do considerably better for Miramax than the company's R-rated release Below, which averaged just $1,199 at 168 screens. That meant only a mini-gross of $201,000 for the submarine thriller, which stars undoubtedly the week's unluckiest actor: Bruce Greenwood, who's also stuck with playing Madonna's husband in Swept Away.

Despite--or probably because of--the mishmash of newcomers, business was down this weekend by 8 percent, with the top 12 films grossing just $93.4 million, although that was about a 20 percent gain over his time last year.

Here's a rundown of the top 10, as compiled by Exhibitor Relations from final studio tallies:

1. Red Dragon, $17.7 million
2. Sweet Home Alabama, $14.3 million
3. Brown Sugar, $10.7 million
4. The Transporter, $9.1 million
5. My Big Fat Greek Wedding, $8.5 million
6. The Tuxedo, $7 million
7. White Oleander, $5.6 million
8. Tuck Everlasting, $5.3 million
9. Knockaround Guys, $5 million
10. Barbershop, $4 million

(Originally publised 10/13/02 at 1:05 p.m. PT)

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