There were a clutch of new releases this week but none managed to dislodge last week's top two films, Meet The Parents and Remember The Titans, both of which occupied their same slots en route to expected blockbuster grosses.

With a combined $75.7m, the top 12 films actually outgrossed the corresponding weekend in 1999 for the first time since August, a sign perhaps that the US box office has truly shaken off its slump.

Jay Roach's Meet The Parents, a comedy pairing Robert DeNiro with Ben Stiller, has quickly amassed $59m after just ten days on release; Remember The Titans, starring Denzel Washington as an American football coach, has collected $64.7m after three weeks in theatres.

Among the opening films, the best of the bunch was New Line's satanic thriller Lost Souls, starring Winona Ryder and Ben Chaplin, which defied mediocre reviews for a third place finish and a take of $8.4m. Completed some time ago, the film marks the directorial debut of Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, Steven Spielberg's frequent collaborator.

Spielberg's studio, DreamWorks, meanwhile, scored a moderate opening for its political drama The Contender which stars Joan Allen as a vice-presidential candidate caught in a sex scandal. Unusually in these days of carefully manufactured media messages - given out by both Hollywood and Washington spin doctors - this film found itself being criticised in the press by one of its co-stars, Gary Oldman, who accused DreamWorks of perpetuating an overtly Democratic agenda. Oldman's performance, incidentally, has won raves, although his chances of an upcoming Oscar nomination may well have been compromised by his fall-out with the studio.

Talking of potential Oscar bids, this year's contender for the little-British-film-that-could, Billy Elliot took an average of $22,000 at each of the ten theatres it opened in for Universal Focus, the new specialist marketing arm of Universal Pictures. In a year in which so few American films have caught fire with the press and public alike, Billy Elliot is being groomed as the next Full Monty - although critics were also drawing comparisons between its tale of a miner's son studying to become a ballet dancer with the cross-gender empowerment plot of Girlfight. Billy Elliot will start broadening its release pattern from November 3rd.

Other newcomers that featured in the top ten were The Ladies Man, a comedy which revolves around yet another outrageous character spun off from a Saturday Night Live television skit, and Robert Altman's Dr. T. & the Women starring Richard Gere as a Dallas gynecologist. Determined to find a wider audience than has been the case with so many of Altman's more acerbic works, Artisan kicked off with an ostentatious party thrown at New York City's Public Library and released the film wide with a big marketing campaign.


Film (Distributor)/Estimated weekend gross

1 (1) Meet The Parents (Universal) $21.3m

2 (2) Remember The Titans (Buena Vista) BVI $13.5m

3 (-) Lost Souls (New Line) $8.4m

4 (-) The Ladies Man (Paramount) $5.7m

5 (-) The Contender (DreamWorks SKG) $5.5m

6 (4) The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen (Warner Bros) $5.4m

7 (-) Dr. T & The Women (Artisan) $5.2m

8 (3) Get Carter (Warner Bros) $2.7m

9= (6) Almost Famous (DreamWorks SKG) $2.3m

9= (-) Best in Show (Warner Bros) $2.3m