Box Office: Meet the Parents One More Time

For the third — yes, the third — weekend in a row, Meet the Parents topped the box office, with an estimated $16.3 million, for a total gross so far of $81 million.

It was a good weekend for comedies: Elizabeth Hurley in a schoolgirl outfit wasn't enough to put Bedazzled on top, but the satanic comedy scored a solid second with $13.7 million. The strikebreaking Hurley was all over the news this week, proving once again that no publicity is bad publicity.

The top four movies earned a staggering 73 percent of the total Top 10 take. Now that multiplexes screen hits up to every half hour, viewers can see the films they want, instead of settling for (but boosting the box office of) their Saturday seconds.

Two Oscar-hopeful prestige releases failed to generate the excitement of the top two laffers. Feel-bad weepie Pay It Forward may have surprised detractors with a third-place $10.2 million, but it will need to pick up the pace to gain traction in the increasingly desolate Oscar race. Reviews calling it "reprehensible," "sickening," and "insultingly shallow" surely did not help the Helen Hunt-Kevin Spacey vehicle pack in the quality-film viewers that it needs.

Perhaps disproving the Liz Hurley no-publicity-is-bad-publicity axiom, political potboiler The Contender, under attack from one of its own stars, has not yet parlayed its Gary Oldman body slams into paying customers. The film lost a third of its business from last weekend, finishing sixth with a total take of $3.6 million. The presidential election and the popularity of the similarly themed TV show The West Wing haven't yet persuaded viewers to vote for the largely well-reviewed drama.

Martial arts master Jackie Chan dusted off one of his golden oldies, previously released in 1994 as Drunken Master II and now freshly dubbed The Legend of Drunken Master, to kick his way to a fifth-place finish with a gross of $3.7 million.

In news of falling-fast flicks, extended Saturday Night Live sketch The Ladies Man lost almost half of last weekend's business to finish eighth with a total gross of $2.9 million. And aptly titled Winona Ryder fright-fest Lost Souls can perhaps blame the re-release of The Exorcist for its almost 60 percent falloff to a seventh-place finish, with a $3.3 million gross. Maybe Winona and Linda Blair should have gone for that Charlie's Angels remake.

Winona's recent co-star Richard Gere has also not been seducing moviegoers with Dr. T and the Women, which fell 50 percent to finish 10th with a $2.5 million gross. As Sylvester Stallone's Get Carter lost more than 60 percent of its business and fell out of the Top 10 entirely, better news arrived for the dog-show satire Best in Show, which fetched a healthy $4427 per-screen average to finish in 11th place overall.

And for music fans keeping score at home, Almost Famous, which inspired both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times to publish meditations on its noble failure, fell to 12th place with an almost awful $762,000, losing more than 40 percent of last weekend's business for an overall take so far of just $28.8 million.

The Top 10 films for Oct. 20-22, 2000:

1. Meet the Parents, $16.3 million 2. Bedazzled, $13.7 million 3. Pay It Forward, $10.2 million 4. Remember the Titans, $10 million 5. The Legend of Drunken Master, $3.7 million 6. The Contender, $3.6 million 7. Lost Souls, $3.3 million 8. The Ladies Man, $2.9 million 8. The Exorcist, $2.9 million 10. Dr. T and the Women, $2.5 million

Final figures will be released Monday.