Disney's "Signs" edged Sony's third weekend of "XXX," which took in $13.7 million at 3,517 theaters as it came in second after leading for its first two weekends. The holdover successes managed to keep significant levels of business at the nation's multiplexes as a trio of new entries -- Paramount's "Serving Sara," Miramax's "Undisputed" and New Line's "Simone" -- all performed unimpressively, landing in sixth, eighth and ninth places, respectively.
"The numbers are respectable for 'Signs' and 'XXX' but it's clear that the studios are holding off on releasing attractive major films this weekend," said industry analyst Arthur Rockwell of Rockwell Capital Management. "There are a lot of distractions right now, led by kids going back to school. It's not a big surprise, since this tends to be a soft weekend for the business."
The total for "Signs" was the lowest performance by a No. 1 film since "Black Hawk Down" led with $11.1 million on the first weekend in February. Overall business was muted as the top 10 films took in only $73.4 million, or $3.4 million less than the same weekend last year when "American Pie 2" led with $12.5 million.
Year-to-date totals have topped $6.1 billion, about 12 percent ahead of the same time last year.
The record-setting pace has been helped by "Signs," which has now taken in $173.2 million in 24 days and replaced "Air Force One" as the 69th highest domestic grosser. "Signs" is also 2002's sixth-highest performer after "Spider-Man," "Star Wars -- Episode 2: Attack of the Clones," "Austin Powers in Goldmember," "Men In Black II" and "Ice Age."
The performance by "XXX" gave it $106.7 million after 17 days, making the spy adventure the 259th film to top $100 million in domestic grosses.
Holdovers also took the next three slots, led by Miramax's third weekend of "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams" with $7.8 million at 3,307 theaters to lift its 19-day take to $58.5 million. The family adventure edged IFC's 19th weekend of romantic comedy "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" with $7.6 million at 1,329 theaters.
IFC has taken advantage of the strong word of mouth from moviegoers and moved the art-house hit into mainstream multiplexes in recent weeks, pushing the "Wedding" total to $64 million overall. "It's a smart move for them to expand since theater owners need new product and they don't have a lot of good choices right now," Rockwell noted.
Universal's second weekend of "Blue Crush" continued to post modest numbers with $6.5 million at3,015 sites as the surfer film lost 55 percent of its opening weekend. Its 10-day total has hit $26.4 million, short of expectations.
New Line's fifth weekend of "Austin Powers in Goldmember" took the seventh slot with $5.6 million at 2,805 theaters to boost its total to $194 million. "Goldmember" is now only $10 million short of "Austin Powers in the Spy Who Shagged Me" and has replaced "Toy Story" as the 45th highest domestic grosser.
Miramax's "Undisputed," starring Wesley Snipes and Ving Rhames in a tale of prison boxers, opened in eighth place with $4.7 million at 1,102 locations. The relatively small number of screens gave "Undisputed" the highest per-theater total in the top 10 with $4,264 or $106 better than the figure for "Signs."
"It sounds as 'Undisputed' was fairly well-targeted since there generally isn't a lot of interest in boxing movies," Rockwell noted.
New Line's comedy "Simone," starring Al Pacino as a Hollywood director who creates an artificial actress, finished with a disappointing $4.1 million at 1,920 theaters. "This wasn't a good role for Pacino because it's not what moviegoers expect," Rockwell said.
Warner Bros.' third weekend of Clint Eastwood's thriller "Blood Work" continued to post moderate returns in 10th with $2.9 million at 2,203 theaters. That edged DreamWorks' seventh weekend of "Road to Perdition," which grossed $2.8 million at 1,863 sites to push its overall total to $94.7 million.
Warner's second weekend of Eddie Murphy's "The Adventures of Pluto Nash" nearly disappeared from box office tracking with $630,000 at 2,320 theaters as the comedy slumped 71 percent from its opening weekend of $2.2 million.
The upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend is likely to see similar performance overall with only one new release planned as Warner opens murder mystery "Fear Dotcom."
On the art-house circuit, Fox Searchlight's opening of thriller "One Hour Photo," starring Robin Williams, performed well with $315,000 at seven theaters. Serachlight's fourth weekend of "The Good Girl" with Jennifer Aniston grossed $1.6 million at 128 theaters as it more than doubled its locations.
Rainforest's thriller "Pandora's Box" took in $33,348 at 14 sites and Paramount Classics' German comedy "Mostly Martha" grossed $234,000 at 27 theaters.