Weekend Box Office (July 20 - 22, 2001)

THIS WEEKEND The ferocious bite of dinosaurs and the sweet smile of Julia Roberts lifted the box office out of its recent doldrums as Jurassic Park III and America's Sweethearts powered the marketplace to its first year-to-year gain in nearly a month. For only the second time in history, two films opened north of $30M on the same weekend.

Universal led the way with its big-budget sequel Jurassic Park III which opened with $50.8M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and a towering $81.4M since its Wednesday launch, according to final studio figures. Crashing into 3,434 theaters, the PG-13 adventure film averaged a muscular $14,785 per location and delivered the third best July opening ever after X-Men ($54.5M) and Men in Black ($51.1M). Steven Spielberg chose to executive produce the third installment of the franchise handing the director's chair to Joe Johnston (Jumanji, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids). Sam Neill, William H. Macy, and Tea Leoni star.

Jurassic Park III played broadly but saw particularly strong results from adult men and families, according to a Universal spokesman. Males made up 53% of the audience while 58% were 25 and older. A healthy Friday-to-Saturday increase of 24% indicated that the film is generating solid matinee sales with kids. Budgeted at $92M, Jurassic Park III hopes to secure $100M in grosses before Planet of the Apes, another expensive sci-fi epic with mass appeal, attacks the box office this Friday in roughly 3,400 theaters.

The first Jurassic Park film opened with $50.2M (including Thursday night previews) from 2,404 theaters in June 1993 on its way to $357M domestically. The 1997 sequel, The Lost World, debuted in 3,281 locations with $92.7M (including previews) over the long Memorial Day holiday weekend and ended up with $229M. Together, the pair has grossed over $1.5 billion worldwide. With the successful bow of the third installment, Universal is in preliminary discussions to continue the lucrative franchise with a fourth dinosaur film.

The powerful opening of Jurassic Park III marked a milestone for Universal which became the first studio in history to release three consecutive films with debuts of at least $40M. The dinosequel was preceded by The Mummy Returns and The Fast and the Furious which launched with $68.1M and $40.1M respectively. Add in last summer's Nutty Professor II and November's How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Universal has enjoyed an unprecedented five $40M+ openings in the past twelve months - and none were helped by holiday weekends. No other studio has ever witnessed more than one $40M opening in a single year.

Julia Roberts enjoyed her second best debut ever with the romantic comedy America's Sweethearts which opened with a strong $30.2M. Playing in 3,011 theaters, the Sony/Revolution Films title averaged a terrific $10,024 per location. The PG-13 film also stars Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and John Cusack and was directed by Revolution topper Joe Roth. Sweethearts delivered the third largest opening ever for a romantic comedy after Runaway Bride (also a Julia Roberts picture) which debuted with $35.1M in July 1999 and last December's What Women Want which bowed to $33.6M.

America's Sweethearts played to adult women and couples as 55% of the audience was female and 55% was 25 and over. "It was a date movie with movie stars," exclaimed Jeff Blake, Sony's president of worldwide marketing and distribution. Most recent films did not have as much starpower, he noted, and the marketplace was full of action films and kids pictures making Sweethearts a great alternative.

Roberts' romantic comedies generally enjoy good legs and America's Sweethearts has little direct competition in the next couple of weeks. However, the $46M production rose a mere 2% on Saturday and scored a so-so B grade with moviegoers polled by CinemaScore. By comparison, Runaway Bride opened with a 9% Friday-to-Saturday increase and reached a domestic gross of more than four times its debut weekend.

Dropping 46% in its second semester was last weekend's top film Legally Blonde, starring Reese Witherspoon, which took in $11.1M. Produced for $18M, MGM's law school comedy has grossed a solid $43.5M in ten days and should reach $65-70M making it a profitable picture for the studio.

Paramount saw sales drop 43% for its Robert De Niro-Edward Norton action thriller The Score which made off with $10.8M in its second weekend. The $68M film has swiped $37.2M in ten days and looks to end its run with $65-70M as well.

The talking pets film Cats and Dogs collected $6.8M, down 43%, and raised its total to $72.4M after 19 days. Universal's street racing blockbuster The Fast and the Furious enjoyed the smallest decline in the top ten dipping just 34% to $5.3M for an overall total of $125.1M.

A pair of summer sequels followed as Scary Movie 2 took in $4.5M and Dr. Dolittle 2 grossed $4.4M. Miramax's spoof comedy plunged 53% in its third weekend and pushed its total to $61.8M, while the Fox family comedy declined a more reasonable 41% and brought its sum to $93.3M.

Rounding out the top ten with massive drops were Sony's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within crumbling 68% to $3.7M and Fox's Kiss of the Dragon tumbling 52% to $2.9M. Final Fantasy, which carries a hefty production cost of $115M, has grossed only $26.8M in 12 days and should finish with a disappointing $30-35M. Dragon's total stands at $29.7M.

Shrek, the year's biggest film, remained strong holding onto eleventh place with $2.3M, down 37%, for a $251.9M cume. The DreamWorks smash now sits at number 15 on the all-time domestic blockbusters list between 1975's Jaws ($260M) and 1989's Batman ($251.2M). Of course in those years, ticket prices were much lower and the number of available screens were far fewer.

Dropping out of the top ten were Steven Spielberg's fantasy drama A.I.: Artificial Intelligence in its fourth weekend and the video game-inspired actioner Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in its sixth frame. Warner Bros. suffered a dismal 58% fall for A.I. which collected $2.2M over the Friday-to-Sunday period and a total of $74.5M to date. The $100M production should finish its disappointing domestic run with $75-80M. Budgeted at $80M, Tomb Raider has grossed $126.2M thus far and is set to conclude with a strong $130M or so.

In limited release, MGM saw a promising debut for its comic adaptation Ghost World which grossed $98,791 from five theaters for a solid $19,758 average. Fine Line's drag queen picture Hedwig and the Angry Inch opened with $156,724 from nine venues for a stellar $17,414 average. Artisan expanded its comedy Made from three to 19 sites and grossed $276,946 (or $14,576 per theater) giving it $472,298 to date. Next weekend, the film goes much wider. Fox Searchlight's indie flick Sexy Beast took in $414,441 from 188 theaters for a $2,204 average boosting its cume to $4.6M.

Compared to projections, Jurassic Park III opened close to my $45M three-day forecast. America's Sweethearts was also close to my $29M prediction.

The top ten films grossed $130.5M which was up 5% from last year when What Lies Beneath opened in the top spot with $29.7M; and up 23% from 1999 when The Haunting debuted at number one with $33.4M.

Take this week's NEW Reader Survey on which summer film has been the biggest disappointment. In last week's survey, readers were asked whether Jurassic Park III or Planet of the Apes will gross more this summer. Of 5,124 responses, 52% chose Planet of the Apes while 48% picked JP3.

Read the Weekly Rewind column which reports on the top July openings. For reviews of Jurassic Park III and America's Sweethearts visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Planet of the Apes attacks the box office.

Marketplace: Shop for videos, DVDs, music, books, and posters at discounted prices using search engines

# Title July 20 - 22 July 13 - 15 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Dist.
1 Jurassic Park III $ 50,771,645 3,434 1 $ 14,785 $ 81,385,755 Universal
2 America's Sweethearts 30,181,877 3,011 1 10,024 30,181,877 Sony
3 Legally Blonde 11,103,700 20,377,426 -45.5 2,695 2 4,120 43,488,647 MGM
4 The Score 10,762,333 19,018,807 -43.4 2,160 2 4,983 37,162,585 Paramount
5 Cats and Dogs 6,814,617 12,033,590 -43.4 3,040 3 2,242 72,420,348 Warner Bros.
6 The Fast and the Furious 5,327,395 8,088,195 -34.1 2,732 5 1,950 125,087,425 Universal
7 Scary Movie 2 4,523,493 9,554,442 -52.7 2,802 3 1,614 61,823,992 Miramax
8 Dr. Dolittle 2 4,400,905 7,483,973 -41.2 2,434 5 1,808 93,283,512 Fox
9 Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within 3,658,552 11,408,853 -67.9 2,649 2 1,381 26,846,730 Sony
10 Kiss of the Dragon 2,916,173 6,010,165 -51.5 1,655 3 1,762 29,661,710 Fox
11 Shrek 2,275,232 3,603,843 -36.9 1,551 10 1,467 251,922,192 DreamWorks
12 A.I. : Artificial Intelligence 2,168,939 5,214,891 -58.4 2,315 4 937 74,522,517 Warner Bros.
13 Lara Croft: Tomb Raider 1,877,509 3,883,274 -51.7 1,348 6 1,393 126,246,328 Paramount
14 Atlantis: The Lost Empire 1,226,201 2,582,689 -52.5 1,279 7 959 77,497,551 Buena Vista
15 Baby Boy 1,158,417 2,108,663 -45.1 637 4 1,819 26,648,395 Sony
16 Pearl Harbor 1,077,223 1,968,363 -45.3 892 9 1,208 192,166,709 Buena Vista
17 Sexy Beast 414,441 503,863 -17.7 188 6 2,204 4,564,612 Fox Searchlight
18 Moulin Rouge 410,387 753,303 -45.5 379 10 1,083 53,345,164 Fox
19 Swordfish 348,494 1,005,155 -65.3 383 7 910 68,400,207 Warner Bros.
20 The Closet 335,704 309,427 8.5 65 4 5,165 1,277,681 Miramax
Top 5 $ 109,634,172 $ 72,393,118 51.4
Top 10 130,460,690 103,073,616 26.6
Top 20 141,753,237 117,563,948 20.6
Top 20 vs. 2000 141,753,237 133,538,611 6.2

Last Updated : July 23, 2001 at 7:45PM EDT

Written by Gitesh Pandya