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''The Whole Nine Yards'' beats Madonna and Midler

It was a bad weekend for new films — Garry Shandling’s latest didn’t crack the top 10

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Amanda Peet, Bruce Willis, ...
Warner Brothers

”The Whole Nine Yards” topped the box office for the third week in a row with an estimated $7.3 million, and if Bruce Willis had to make a speech for this honor, he wouldn’t be thanking the little people, he’d be thanking the little, crappy movies he’s competing with. Three new films opened last weekend to challenge ”Yards,” but since each received more indifferent reviews than the next, none made much of a mark. Madonna’s pure star power managed to lift her otherwise irredeemable ”The Next Best Thing” into second place with $6 million, a weak debut considering one year ago this weekend ”Analyze This” premiered with $18.4 million.

”Drowning Mona” fought its way past sneering notices to make it to fourth place with $5.9 million (just barely trailing ”My Dog Skip,” which expanded its limited run to pull in $5.94 million). After that, you had to travel all the way down to 14th place to find Garry Shandling’s ”What Planet Are You From?” which took in only $3.0 million. Hopefully it’ll be a hit in another universe.

CRITICAL MASS Those EW readers who did see Madonna’s latest were more impressed than the critics: They gave it a B in our Critical Mass Movie Poll. Of course, many might have cheered her no matter what material the Material Girl was appearing in: A whopping 73 percent said the stars were the reason they saw ”The Next Best Thing.”

The actors in ”Drowning Mona” were less of a draw for online viewers — 57 percent said they went for Neve and Bette, and the film got a lackluster B-. But the real revelation was how unenticing Garry Shandling was: Only 30 percent of ”What Planet”’s ticket buyers said the cast was the attraction, and the film averaged a C+. Somewhere, Larry Sanders is snickering.

To vote on these and other current movies, visit Critical Mass Online.