In her "Box Office Report," The Early Show contributor Laurie Hibberd says it was swim versus the sea, and "Swimfan" – a "Fatal Attraction" for the teen set - came out on top.
The thriller took the weekend box office by surprise, earning $12.4 million to finish in first place, according to Holywood.com.
Robert De Niro's "City by the Sea" washed ashore quietly in third place with $9.1 million.
"Swimfan" received poor reviews and wasn't expected to make such a splash, but Hibberd says teens typically don't read reviews. They do know the film's stars, Jesse Bradford of "Bring It On" and Erika Christensen of "Traffic."
"And everyone loves a good scare," Hibberd adds.
"I'm ecstatic," said director "Swimfan" John Polson. "It surpassed our expectations."
The "Swimfan" director said distributor Fox did savvy marketing. The film debuted on the first weekend of the school year with no big competition.
"You cannot underestimate the teenage audience," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
The expected scenario was for "Swimfan" to take in $8 million while the season's sleeper success story, "My Big, Fat Greek Wedding" was expected to earn $10 million and take over the top spot.
But, Hibberd says, "Wedding" was number one "for a few brief shining days in the middle of last week before "Swimfan" opened."
"Greek Wedding" continued its dance in second place with more than $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" is based loosely on the true story of a New York police detective who learns his estranged son is the prime suspect in a murder. It stars Oscar winners De Niro and Frances McDormand of "Fargo" fame.
It was not one of De Niro's best openings, Hibberd says, adding that the actor's recent movies have opened in the second or third place but it hasn't hurt his star status.
"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.
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.
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 Labor Day weekend.
The top 10 films were :
- "Swimfan," $12.4 million.
- "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," $10.6 million.
- "City by the Sea," $9.1 million.
- "Signs," $8 million.
- "XXX," $5.5 million.
- "Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams," $3 million.
- "Austin Powers in Goldmember," $2.76 million.
- "fear dot com," $2.35 million.
- "Spider-Man/Men in Black 2," $2 million (double feature).
- "Blue Crush," $1.81 million.