Paul Blart Mall Cop hung on to the box-office lead for the second consecutive weekend as it earned an estimated $21.5 million to bring its total to $26 million. The low-budget film, which had been slotted into a release in January, ordinarily a quiet period at the box office, has far exceeded the rosiest predictions of studio executives and confounded critics, who pilloried it. "This movie was not made for the critics," Media by Numbers President Paul Dergarabedian told Reuters. "It was made for the audience, and that certainly paid off." He predicted that the movie will earn more than $100 million. The comedy barely edged out the horror flick Underworld Rise of the Lycans , which took in an estimated $20.7 million. (The race between the two films appeared so tight that their positions could be reversed when final figures are released later today.) Meanwhile, the family film Inkheart , which had sat on Warner Bros.' shelves for more than a year, probably should have stayed there. It opened with only $7.7 million.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Media by Numbers 1. Paul Blart Mall Cop , $21.5 million; 2. Underworld Rise of the Lycans, $20.7 million; 3. Gran Torino, $16 million; 4. Hotel for Dogs , $12.4 million; 5. Slumdog Millionaire , $10.6 million; 6. My Bloody Valentine 3-D , $10.1 million; 7. Inkheart, $7.7 million; 8. Bride Wars, $7 million; 9. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button , $6 million; 10. Notorious, $5.7 million.