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''Stuart Little'' dominates the box office

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The lesson learned from this weekend at the box office? That people aren’t as scared of mice as they used to be. With a lovable rodent as a star, ”Stuart Little” triumphed with an estimated $15.4 million debut (thanks to kids out of school), and ”The Green Mile” — which features a jail-bound mouse as a supporting actor — squeaked in at number two with $12.6 million (for a total of $36.5 million).

Other new releases weren’t nearly the Big Cheese that ”Stuart Little” was. ”Bicentennial Man” only rallied to fourth place (tied with ”Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo”) with $8.3 million, behind ”Toy Story 2,” which took in $12.1 million (total so far: $156.3 million). Williams may have pushed his goofy-yet-dewy-eyed persona too far with this one, considering ”Bicentennial Man” is his second-lowest debut since 1992’s ”Toys.” (”Jakob the Liar” opened with only $2.1 million in September.)

Then there was ”Anna and the King,” which bowed in only sixth place with $5.1 million, perhaps hampered by mediocre reviews, a story line people had seen before, no buzz, etcetera, etcetera. Meanwhile, a handful of Oscar contenders continues to simmer powerfully in limited release before going wide in January. With a three-hour-plus running time that would make James Cameron call for cuts, ”Magnolia” (which goes wide on Jan. 7) took in $184,000 on seven screens — a $26,286 average. And Mike Leigh’s ”Topsy-Turvy” — just named Best Picture by the New York Film Critics Circle — opened with $29,891 on two screens, and will expand on Jan. 14.

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