Audiences made Kevin Costner's "Waterworld" No. 1 at the box office over the weekend in the wake of tepid-to-warm reviews and bad press over its bloated budget.
The movie -- considered the most expensive made, at $175 million to $200 million -- took in an estimated $21.6 million in its debut weekend.
"It's impressive considering the negative press, but there is still a question whether it will earn its money back," said John Krier of Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc., which tracks box office performance.
The "Waterworld" debut was preceded by more negative coverage than anything since 1963's "Cleopatra," which cost $213 million in today's dollars. Before "Waterworld," the costliest film was last year's $115 million "True Lies."
The futuristic film is about the cutthroat quest for mythical Dryland after a polar meltdown submerges the continents. Mr. ++ Costner plays a gilled and web-footed loner who saves the world-without-land from pirates.
The critics were ambivalent. The Washington Post's Rita Kempley noted that Mr. Costner has "the personality of a giant fish stick."
"Harmless summer filler," Dolores Barclay called it in her review for The Associated Press.