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"Stuart Little,' "Road' tie for box-office lead

A talking mouse and a vengeful mob hitman fought to a virtual tie for the No. 1 film during an unusually slow weekend at theaters.

Stuart Little 2, the sequel about the lovable rodent with Michael J. Fox's voice, debuted with $15.6-million, according to studio estimates Sunday. That was a whisker ahead of Road to Perdition. The Depression-era gangster tale starring Tom Hanks grossed $15.57-million in its second weekend.

Rankings could change when final numbers are released today.

Men in Black II, the No. 1 movie for two straight weekends, fell to third place with $15-million, lifting its 19-day total to $158.6-million.

The top 12 films grossed $104.4-million for Friday through Sunday. That was down 23 percent from the same weekend last year and broke a string of six weekends of rising revenues.

Harrison Ford's Soviet submarine drama K-19: The Widowmaker premiered at No. 4 with $13.1-million. Distributor Paramount had expected the movie would be in the $18-million to $20-million range.

The giant-bug flick Eight Legged Freaks, starring David Arquette, was seventh with $6.7-million, pushing its total to $9.3-million since opening Wednesday.

New director picked

for third "Harry Potter'

Alfonso Cuaron, director of this year's Spanish-language hit Y Tu Mama Tambien, has been picked to direct Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third film in the franchise.

Production will begin in England early next year, with the film scheduled for release in summer 2004, distributor Warner Bros. announced Sunday in Los Angeles.

All key cast members are expected to return, including Daniel Radcliffe as boy wizard Harry.

Cuaron will take over from Chris Columbus, who directed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, last year's biggest hit, and is finishing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, due in theaters this November.

Columbus will be a producer on the third film based on the book series created by British author J.K. Rowling.

Born in Mexico, Cuaron made his directing debut in 1991 with Love in the Time of Hysteria, following with A Little Princess in 1995 and Great Expectations in 1998.