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Mouse shows legs

'Stuart Little' tops 'Ripley' with $11.5 mil

A handful of holiday releases continue to confound B.O. skeptics — even a few within the walls of the majors that released the pics.

Topping the list of overachievers is Sony’s “Stuart Little.” The potent rodent has navigated the B.O. maze to within a whisker of the $100 million mark.

Pic won its third weekend in four tries, taking in a studio-estimated $11.5 million to bring its cume to $95.6 million. “Stuart” beat out two other resilient releases, “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “The Green Mile.”

The top trio clearly benefited from a frame that saw no big bows. Next weekend will offer much stiffer competition, notably the widening of Sony’s “Girl, Interrupted” and Universal’s “The Hurricane,” both of which posted strong limited-release results.

Sony is now hoping to parlay the success of “Stuart Little” into sequels.

“We’ve got enough non-kid business to keep moving forward,” said Sony’s distrib chief Jeff Blake. Plus, with the next wide family film arriving in February, “it’s a nice open playing field.”

Adult pics took a back seat to “Stuart” for the second straight weekend. The runner-up won’t be identified until actual totals come out later today.

Regardless of the order of finish, both “Ripley” and “Mile” have overcome several early hurdles.

“Ripley,” a co-production of Paramount and Miramax which Par is releasing domestically, enjoyed prestige of Oscar-winning helmer Anthony Minghella and stars Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow. But 139-minute running time made pic far from a B.O. lock.

“The picture is playing a lot broader than we originally thought,” said Par distrib chief Wayne Lewellen. “We had planned on about 1,800 runs.”

“Ripley” averaged an estimated $4,231 at each of its 2,316 sites, the second-best average on the top 10 chart.

Lewellen for now projects a final cume of about $80 million, but Golden Globes and Oscar noms could goose that figure.

On the flip side of the awards coin is Warner Bros.’ “The Green Mile.” Virtually shut out of the Golden Globes, pic looked vulnerable when it fell to No. 5 on Christmas weekend with a $9 million take.

But, as they say on Wall Street, a strong stock climbs a wall of worry. Tom Hanks starrer is now on its way to becoming just the ninth pic of the last 25 years to reach $100 million despite a three-hour running time.

The pesky length issue, plus helmer Frank Darabont’s unproven commercial appeal and the film’s death-row setting, didn’t augur well. What’s more, pic hasn’t won any of its five weekends.

As Warners distrib head Dan Fellman put it, “People just assumed it was going to go by the wayside. But people like this movie. It has great word of mouth. And it’s going to be there for a long time.

Fellman also touted the frame’s No. 4 pic, “Any Given Sunday,” which is shaping up as one of Oliver Stone’s most successful efforts. Fourth-place finish gives NFL pic good field position with $59.5 million already in the pocket.

Widening out after a few limited frames were New Line’s “Magnolia” and U’s “Snow Falling on Cedars.”

Aided by acclaimed supporting perf by Tom Cruise, “Magnolia” racked up $6.6 million on 1,034 screens and scored the best per-screen average with $6,383. Cume is $7.5 million.

“Snow,” directed by Scott “Shine” Hicks, snared the No. 10 spot with about $4 million.

“Toy Story 2,” the industry’s top holiday pic, celebrated the first full weekend in 2000 with another $7.5 million. That brings toon’s cume to an estimated $220.1 million, making it the third biggest Disney grosser ever, behind “The Lion King” and “The Sixth Sense.”

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