LOS ANGELES - The band of grown-up kiddie actors in "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star" beat back the bloodthirsty bat-creature of "Jeepers Creepers 2" at the weekend box office.
"Dickie Roberts," a comedy starring David Spade as a down-on-his-luck former child star, debuted at No. 1 with $7 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The film appealed to family audiences, according to distributor Paramount Pictures, because it lacked gross-out gags and had an uplifting story about reclaiming the former star's lost childhood.
Still, it earned less in its opening weekend than Spade's trailer-trash comedy "Joe Dirt," which debuted in April 2001 with $8 million.
"He was more successful (co-starring) with the late Chris Farley," said Brandon Gray, proprietor of movie tracker BoxOfficeMojo.com. "I mean $7 million in this day and age is a pretty mediocre opening at best, but they can brag about being No. 1 and it could have been a lot worse."
Last week's top film, "Jeepers Creepers 2," about a flying beast that feeds on a group of stranded teenagers, was nudged into second place, earning $6.7 million for the weekend.
The movie offerings generally attracted little interest, however, following the end of summer and the start to school for many children. Overall ticket sales of $50.4 million were down more than 14 percent from last year, when "Swimfan" topped the box office.
"It was a pretty typical post-Labor Day weekend: nothing spectacular, nothing too terrible," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co.
He said the $7 million collected by "Dickie Roberts" doesn't compare to the $40 million to $70 million debuts of summer blockbusters, pointing out that this kicks off the downtime between summer extravaganzas and the next popular moviegoing season, the holiday weeks full of would-be Oscar-contenders.
"The Order," a supernatural thriller starring Heath Ledger as a priest searching for a man who absorbs the sins of other people, debuted weakly in sixth place with $4.3 million. The film was the subject of squabbling between its makers and studio and was dumped into theaters without screening for critics.
Meanwhile, "American Wedding" became the 20th film released in 2003 to cross the $100 million mark.
"Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" saw its cumulative total surge to $282.1 million, edging "The Matrix Reloaded" for the second-highest grossing film of the year. "Finding Nemo" is No. 1 with $333.9 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star," $7 million.
2. "Jeepers Creepers 2," $6.7 million.
3. "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," $5.5 million.
4. "Freaky Friday," $5.1 million.
5. "S.W.A.T.," $4.6 million.
6. "The Order," $4.3 million.
7. "Open Range," $4 million.
8. "Seabiscuit," $3.7 million.
9. "Freddy vs. Jason," $3.2 million.
10. "Uptown Girls," $2.4 million.