Creepy teen thriller 'Swimfan' leads at the box office

— "Swimfan," a creepy thriller about a teenage seductress who stalks a high school swim star, took the weekend box office by surprise, earning $12.4 million to finish in first place, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The season's low-budget hit, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," maintained its hold on second place, earning $10.6 million. Now in its 21st week, the cross-cultural love story made for just $5 million is approaching the $100 million mark.

"City by the Sea," based loosely on the true story of a New York police detective who learns his estranged son is the prime suspect in a murder, debuted in third place. Starring Oscar winners Robert De Niro and Frances McDormand, the film brought in $9.1 million.

"Swimfan," a "Fatal Attraction" for the high school set, stars Jesse Bradford as Ben Cronin, a high school senior with a sweet girlfriend and a chance at a swimming scholarship. He doesn't see trouble coming because it's hidden behind the cherubic smile of the new girl in town, Madison Bell.

The seductive, out-of-control Madison is played by Erika Christensen, who caught critics' attention with her performance as Michael Douglas' drug-addicted daughter in "Traffic."

"I'm ecstatic," said director John Polson. "I think it surpassed our expectations."

Polson credited distributor Fox with savvy marketing. The film debuted on the first weekend of the new school year with no big blockbusters to compete against.

"You cannot underestimate the teenage audience," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

Overall, the top 12 films grossed an estimated $60.8 million � the lowest weekend gross of the year so far, Dergarabedian said. The weekend after Labor Day is generally slow for Hollywood.

The box-office take was down less than 1 percent from the same weekend a year ago, and down 14 percent from the long Labor Day weekend. Still, moviegoers' ongoing interest in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and the Mel Gibson vehicle "Signs" kept them going to theaters.

"Signs," the tale of a farmer coping with mysterious crop circles and visitors from the skies, placed No. 4, earning $8 million. Its six-week total rose to nearly $206 million.

"It now stands as the fourth highest-grossing film released this year," Dergarabedian said. "That movie 'Signs' has really saved the box office in a way."

The thriller "XXX" was in fifth place, earning $5.5 million, while the spy spoof "Austin Powers in Goldmember," took the No. 7 spot, earning $2.8 million. The seven-week total of $207 million surpasses earnings for the two previous Austin Powers films, making "Goldmember" the highest-grossing film of the trilogy.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Monday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.:

1. "Swimfan," $12.4 million.

2. "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," $10.6 million.

3. "City by the Sea," $9.1 million.

4. "Signs," $8 million.

5. "XXX," $5.5 million.

6. "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams," $3 million.

7. "Austin Powers in Goldmember," $2.8 million.

8. "fear dot com," $2.3 million.

9. "Spider-Man/Men in Black 2," $2 million (double feature).

10. "Blue Crush," $1.8 million.


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