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WEEKEND BOXOFFICE ADVANCE: 'Pearl Harbor' Must Fight Off Comedy Invasion and Still-Mighty 'Shrek' to Retain No. 1

1 Jun, 2001 By: Ed Ochs

The Memorial Day call to boxoffice battle stations has passed, but Pearl Harbor should have enough firepower left over to fight off this weekend's invasion of the comic newcomers to hold on to its No. 1 ranking -- although Shrek may still have something to say about that before the final tally is taken.

Trolling for opening weekend laughs are Sony's low-brow The Animal and MGM's fuzzy What's the Worst That Could Happen? while Fox's lavish musical romance Moulin Rouge, which has been playing to two packed houses in New York and LA the last two weeks to build buzz, expands nationwide.

Sony's PG-13 The Animal stars SNL's Rob Schneider as a man with transplanted animal parts who begins acting like an animal. Heavily advertised by Sony, The Animal should outperform Schneider's Deuce Bigalow breakthrough, which opened with $12.2 million in December 1999, but with other laugh choices at hand and the film's strident appeal to young male audiences, The Animal has no real chance to escape the zoo and reach No. 1.

MGM's PG-13 comedy What's the Worst That Could Happen stars Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito as a thief and a billionaire who try to out-con each other. Lawrence has built a track record of each film outgrossing the one that came before, and Big Momma's House debuted this same weekend last year with $25.7 million. But with little buzz emanating from this outing, and TV ads failing to deliver a clear and funny message, the worst that could happen probably will -- leaving What's the Worst That Could Happen? on the outside looking in at this weekend's more preferred comedy choices.

Following two weeks of sell-outs in a couple of theaters in Los Angeles and New York, Fox's Moulin Rouge, starring Nicole Kidman, makes its grand national entrance. Since the film is so strange, having no connection to the kinds of Hollywood films that usually cash in over summer won't necessarily hurt Moulin Rouge at the box office -- as the French say, "vive la difference" -- and a hit single and soundtrack will help drive audiences into theaters. Kidman's divorce also deepens interest. But what will limit the film's reach is the same quality that makes it so watchable. Moulin Rouge is a stagey musical fantasy set in 1890s Paris, and that should be enough to narrow its prospects to primarily adult females and couples searching for something with more than an ounce of sophistication.

So look for Pearl Harbor to emerge from the weekend with around $120 million in 10 days, and for Shrek to sky to about $145 million in 17 days. One of these blockbusters will surely find safe harbor at No. 1 this post-holiday spring-into-summer weekend at the box office.

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