Life Is Beautiful also did well, while the somber Beloved fell in its second week of release, according to industry estimates released Sunday.
Two other films, Soldier and Apt Pupil, opened to lukewarm business behind the resilient Practical Magic with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock, the animated Antz,, and Bride of Chucky.
The summer hit Armageddon also became the year's first $200 million movie last weekend.
Pleasantville, the story of two 1990s teen-agers who give a black-and-white TV town a colorful splash of reality, collected $9 million on 1,636 screens for a strong $5,501-per-theater average, the highest among the wide-release films.
"It was difficult to market. It wasn't explainable in a couple of seconds like our other films," said Mitch Goldman, president of marketing and distribution for New Line Cinema. "With only 1,600 theaters, we really didn't expect to be No. 1."
Pleasantville just managed to take the top spot from the witch flick Practical Magic, which had an estimated take of $8.8 million.
Antz remained strong after a month in release, bringing in $8.2 million for third place.
Bride of Chucky lost more than 40 percent of its audience in the second week but still collected $6.7 million, a respectable gross for a horror film, to finish fourth. The new Chucky is expected to be the biggest film in the Child's Play evil doll series.
Soldier, starring Kurt Russell and Jason Scott Lee, opened with $6.3 million in ticket sales for fifth place. Apt Pupil, with Ian McKellen as an old man whose genocidal Nazi past is discovered by a teen-ager, was ninth with $3.6 million.
Beloved was among the weekend's biggest box office disappointments. The Oprah Winfrey-produced adaptation of a Toni Morrison novel lost nearly 50 percent of its audience in the second week, finishing seventh with $4.4 million.
Life Is Beautiful, a hit on the festival circuit and the darling of critics, collected $120,000 in just six theaters for a huge per-location average of $20,000. Starring and directed by Italy's Roberto Benigni, Life Is Beautiful is a comedy/drama set against the Holocaust.
Meanwhile, Armageddon squeezed out another $395,000 in its 17th week to bring its total to $200.2 million.
The estimated grosses at North American theaters for Friday through Sunday as compiled by Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.:
- Pleasantville, $9 million.
- Practical Magic, $8.8 million.
- Antz, $8.2 million.
- Bride of Chucky, $6.7 million.
- Soldier, $6.3 million.
- Rush Hour, $5.7 million.
- Beloved, $4.4 million.
- What reams May Come, $4 million.
- Apt Pupil, $3.6 million.
- A Night at the Roxbury, $2.4 million.
Written by Michael Fleeman