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''The Sixth Sense'' sets an August record

EW readers were surprised how good it was, but they got what they expected with ”Mystery Men”

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Bruce Willis should be grateful that the catchphrase from ”The Sixth Sense” — ”I see dead people” — turned out to be false at the box office. Plenty of live people showed up and made the supernatural tale No. 1 this weekend, with an estimated $25.8 million total, setting an August record by beating ”The Fugitive”’s $23.7 million debut in 1993.

Four other major films opened this crowded weekend, but the only one to crack the top 5 was ”The Thomas Crown Affair,” which captured fourth place with $14.6 million. (In second, third, and fifth were holdovers ”The Blair Witch Project” ($24.5 million), ”Runaway Bride” ($21 million), and ”Deep Blue Sea” ($11 million).) ”Mystery Men” took in a mediocre $10 million for sixth place, and the critically lauded ”Iron Giant” didn’t seem to rally many kiddies, landing in ninth with $5.7 million. Audiences also ignored ”Dick,” another reviewers’ favorite, which pulled in just $2.2 million for 11th place. Unless word of mouth spreads fast, it will soon be the second time in history that you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.

CRITICAL MASS Moviegoers flooded theaters this weekend, spending $151 million — the second-highest three-day weekend ever. But they seemed to be doing it with low expectations, judging from our EW Critical Mass poll. EW readers gave ”The Sixth Sense” an A-, but a whopping 82 percent said it was better than they expected, making you wonder why so many of them flocked to it in the first place. A flattering 62 percent said the same thing about ”The Thomas Crown Affair” (which averaged a B+), with 60 percent saying they would definitely recommend it to others. ”Mystery Men”’s B- grade was reflected by the fact that only 38 percent said it was better than expected, with 23 percent saying it was worse. Perhaps the cast’s superpowers could have been put to better use writing a superscript.