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''Gladiator'' vanquishes an alien John Travolta

Plus, one newcomer takes ”Center Stage” at the box office while another gets ”Screwed”

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Battlefield Earth

John Travolta’s sci-fi epic ”Battlefield Earth” was vanquished this weekend by that sprawling Roman-era epic, ”Gladiator.” The Russell Crowe film held on to first place at the box office for the second week in a row, taking in a hefty $24.3 million. ”Battlefield” was a distant second with $12.3 million. ”Battlefield”’s future looks poor because of the vicious reviews it received (EW gave the film a D), but ”Gladiator” is showing no signs of weakness. Its per-theater average of $8,257 was the highest in the top 10 (”Battlefield”’s average was a feeble $3,725), and the film has already grossed $73.3 million.

The submarine drama ”U-571” held fast to third place with $5.8 million, bringing its total box office to a respectable $57.9 million. The sole newcomer in the top 5 was the ballet-themed teen movie ”Center Stage,” which tied with ”The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas” for fourth place. Both films earned $4.8 million. Even though ”Center” features no big names (the movie’s stars are real-life ballet performers Amanda Schull and Ethan Stiefel) and many critics dismissed it as a lightweight rip-off of 1980’s ”Fame,” the film still fared far better than the celebrity-heavy fare that debuted this week. ”Screwed,” which stars ”SNL” alum Norm Macdonald and Danny DeVito, came in at No. 8 with $3.4 million, and the Jamie Foxx-Nia Long film ”Held Up” brought in just $1.9 million to share 10th place with the Ben Stiller romantic comedy ”Keeping the Faith.”

CRITICAL MASS ”Battlefield Earth” may not be putting up much of a box office battle next week if our EW Online readers’ poll is any indication. The movie received the lousy grade of D, suggesting that audiences saw eye-to-eye with critics’ harsh reviews. Male viewers rated the film slightly lower than women by giving it a D overall, while females, perhaps feeling some compassion for Travolta’s bad hair day dreadlocks, graded the film a C.

It isn’t likely that word of mouth will be filling seats next weekend, since 67 percent of readers said they definitely will not recommend the film, and 67 percent also complained that it was worse than they expected. On the bright side, ”Center Stage” has the markings of a summertime sleeper hit. Made for just $18 million, the film received a solid B+ in our poll, with 86 percent of readers saying it was better than they expected and 71 percent gushing that they would definitely recommend the movie to their friends. Too bad Travolta didn’t put down his laser gun and try a pirouette or two.

To vote on these and other current movies, visit our Critical Mass Movie Poll.