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"Any Given Sunday" scores biggest at the box office

It squeaks by “Mr. Ripley,” but trounces Jim Carrey and Tim Allen

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Oliver Stone sacked the competition this weekend: “Any Given Sunday” took first place at the box office for the Christmas weekend. The football flick earned $13.6 million from Friday to Sunday, and $20.6 million since its Wednesday opening. (This was Stone’s best debut ever, after “Natural Born Killer”‘s $11.2 million in 1994.) “The Talented Mr. Ripley,” the Matt Damon/Gwyneth Paltrow thriller which didn’t open until Saturday, took second place with $12.7 million in just two days — suggesting that it would have beaten ”Sunday” had it also played on Friday.

While both those films had something to smile about, the Andy Kaufman biopic “Man on the Moon” didn’t. Carrey’s audience apparently wants to see him be his own bizarre comic self, not be another MORE bizarre comic’s self: It was Carrey’s worst opening ever, landing in sixth place with only $7.5 million. (And coming behind “Toy Story 2” and “Stuart Little,” which tied for third with $12.5 million, and “The Green Mile,” in fourth with $9.3 million.)

Also getting a lump of coal in its stocking was “Galaxy Quest,” which only made it to seventh place with $7 million in its first weekend. Granted, the sci-fi comedy also opened on Saturday, but it’s unlikely the extra day would have made it a blockbuster. Meanwhile, a slew of Oscar contenders opened promisingly in limited release: “Girl, Interrupted” took in $95,399 on nine screens for a $10,600 average; “Angela’s Ashes” raked in $54,628 from six screens for a $9,105 average; “Snow Falling on Cedars” nabbed $32,135 from three screens for a $10,712 average.

But while each result sounds promising on its own (especially considering that the top per-screen average of any widely released film was “Ripley” with $5,522), consider “The Cider House Rules,” which also recently debuted on only a handful of screens with a high average, but when it expanded to 328 theaters this weekend, it plummeted to a $2,171 average. There’s something to be said for staying a well-kept secret.

CRITICAL MASS If it were up to EW voters, the box office ranking would have been flipped: In our Critical Mass online poll, voters gave “Any Given Sunday” and “Mr. Ripley” both a B-, while the underperforming “Man on the Moon” and “Galaxy Quest” both earned a B+.

Judging from our poll, word of mouth may only help these bottom-dwellers: 82% said they would either definitely or probably recommend “Galaxy Quest,” and 84% said the same about “Man on the Moon,” while only 57% said the same about “Sunday” and 54% about “Ripley.” And female voters — who should be Matt Damon’s main boosters — showed a dangerous dislike for “Ripley,” giving it a C+, as opposed to the males’ B. It’s a chilling grade, especially considering that females gave an A- for “Man on the Moon” — a movie about a man who enjoyed getting women in hammerlocks in the wrestling ring.

Register your vote on these and other current movies at our Critical Mass Movie Poll.

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