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WEEKEND BOXOFFICE REPORT: 'Legally Blonde' Edges 'The Score' for No. 1; 'Final Fantasy' Staggers to No. 4 Behind 'Cats & Dogs'

16 Jul, 2001 By: Ed Ochs

Turned on its ear yet again this weekend, midsummer box office saw both sureshots -- videogame movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Robert De Niro’s The Score -- act like they were avoiding No. 1, politely stepping aside for the Reese Witherspoon comedy Legally Blonde to nab the top spot.

Surprising the competition, MGM’s PG-13 Legally Blonde turned the trick and topped the card this weekend with an estimated $20.4 million, edging crime caper The Score, with an estimated $19 million, and computer-animated videogame film Final Fantasy, with an estimated $18 million –- the lower figures for the top films, all in all, not very good news for an underperforming box office.

Singling out teen girls, Legally Blonde follows Reese Witherspoon trying to win back her ex-boyfriend by following him to law school. That’s all it took to knock off De Niro and $100 million in computer-generated worlds. What does that tell you about who's going to the movies these days?

Paramount/Mandalay’s PG-13 The Score launched the second-best opening of De Niro’s career behind Meet the Parents’ $28.6 million, but that’s a bit deceptive since the latter earned almost $10 million more than the former –- and that’s a big dollar difference. Of course, The Score is not a comedy, and De Niro has played a gangster a few times. This one-last-big-job yarn for De Niro captured No. 2 with a strong cast and adult word of mouth that this one builds to a boil.

Landing at No. 4, Sony/Square’s PG-13 Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within grossed an estimated $11.5 million over the weekend ($19.1 million since its Wednesday debut), disappointing considering the computer-animated game movie cost around $115 million to make – and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider did so well. But Final Fantasy may have been too much fantasy and not enough reality for anyone outside the game's young, hardcore male fans.

Scratching and clawing at No. 3, Warner Bros.’ Cats & Dogs grossed an estimated $12 million in its second weekend, lifting its 12-day total to $58.9 million. It cost about $60 million to make, and animals are always available for sequels, so you can't stop them -- you can only hope for the return someday of silent animal movies.

Miramax's Scary Movie 2 rounded out the top five in its second weekend with an estimated $9.5 million, raising its 12-day total to $52.9 million. It should wind up with half of Scary Movie’s $157 million purse. But considering Scary 2 has yet to haunt home video, and the sequel was made for about $45 million, no one ever said that half as much was too little to make Scary Movie 2 a success.

Steven Spielberg may not be enjoying his lowest-grossing summer film ever, as his sci-fi comebacker A.I. fell to an estimated $5.1 million this weekend for a 17-day total of $70 million. Now, he didn’t go out and intentionally try to produce a disaster movie, but since A.I. cost around $100 million to produce, and expectations always run high with a new Spielberg film, a projected domestic gross of around $85 million for A.I. could make some people wonder where the magic went.

Opening strongly in Los Angeles and New York in limited release this weekend was Artisan’s R-rated comedy Made, starring Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, the writer/director of Swingers. It’s already generating positive word of mouth among twenty and thirtysomethings, and will be adding markets and expanding theaters over the new two weekends when it will have a chance to catch an updraft.

Tumbling out of the top 10: DreamWorks’ No. 1 movie of the year Shrek, with a total to date of $247.3 million; Disney’s sluggish Atlantis with $75 million to date; and Sony’s Baby Boy, the John Singleton drama, with $25 million to date.

Next weekend: Universal’s Jurassic Park III (bowing Wednesday) and Sony’s Billy Crystal-ized America’s Sweethearts starring Julia Roberts.

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