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Will ‘Waterworld’ Pay Off?

After enduring a steady drubbing from the media for the past year, fantasy action film “Waterworld” enjoyed its first reviews from the paying public over the weekend when it shot to No. 1 at the box office with a $21.2 million gross.

Its nearest competition, “The Net,” debuted far behind at $10 million for second place.

It was crucial that “Waterworld” - rumored to have cost $175 million in production alone - break the $20 million barrier if Universal Pictures were to see a return on its staggering investment that starred Kevin Costner. Having achieved that figure, word of mouth will determine how well it holds next week, said The Hollywood Reporter’s box office analyst A.D. Murphy.

Ron Howard’s space rescue drama “Apollo 13” held third place with $9.2 million.

At No. 4, teen comedy “Clueless” also continued to hold well at $7 million.

“Nine Months” fell 33 percent to a gross of $6.5 million for fifth.

“Operation Dumbo Drop” opened in sixth to a disappointing $6.4 million.

In seventh, “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory” dropped 47 percent with a gross of $4.8 million. Following in eighth, “Free Willy 2: The Adventure Home” grossed $4.6 million.

Although it clung to ninth position, “Pocahontas” looks to be fading. The animated Disney film brought in $3.7 million.

“Species” fell by more than 50 percent at No. 10 with $3.5 million.