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WEEKEND BOXOFFICE REPORT: Spielberg Wins Minds But Not Hearts as 'A.I.' Grabs No. 1

2 Jul, 2001 By: Ed Ochs

The Big Weekend that was supposed to blow the top of the box office passed like a summer breeze. Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence reeled in an estimated $30.1 million to lock up No. 1, in line with the debut of 1998’s Saving Pvt. Ryan ($30.6 million), but far short of a true mainstream smash.

Steeped in adult appeal, Warner Bros.’ A.I. should hang around awhile. Though the PG-13 sci-fi tale is serious and perpelexing, many moviegoers view it an an absorbing event film they’ll want to see it later than sooner. A.I. may paint a darker, colder future than the ones intersected in E.T. or Close Encounters, but it’s a brave new world that’s not easily dismissed or resolved, which will give it legs to run through summer.

Universal’s box office surprise The Fast and the Furious continued to burn up the track with an estimated $20 million, bringing its 10-day total to $77.8 million. Produced for $38 million, Fast and the Furious has already won its race by crossing both the finish line and bottom line in tip-top shape. Of course, a street-racing film that burns up so much track so fast is bound to blow out quicker. But by the time its engine quits, the PG-13 hot car action/drama will have generated $140 million -- all before moving on to lucrative home video.

Getting that sinking feeling was Fox’s Dr. Doolittle 2, which dropped to No. 3 in its second weekend with an estimated $15.4 million, bringing its 10-day total to $51 million. Produced for $70 million, DD2 is shooting for $100 million -- no talking animals will be shot in pursuit of studio goals.

Speaking of the $100 million mark, Paramount’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider crossed that holy hurdle this weekend, grossing an estimated $9.8 million to swing its total to $101.2 million in 17 days.

Sony’s R-rated urban drama Baby Boy, directed by John Singleton and starring Tyrese and Snoop Dog, opened with an estimated $8.6 million, solid enough to nail down No. 5. Budgeted at $16 million, Baby Boy will be a percolating moneymaker, playing primarily to black audiences swayed by the director, cast and hit soundtrack.

In the animated sweepstakes, Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire actually outgrossed DreamWorks’ Shrek $7.8 million to $7.1 million this weekend. That’s where any further comparison to Shrek must end. Atlantis has grossed about $58 million after three weekends, while Shrek has collected $227.5 so far -- so far because it continues to suffer the smallest decline in the top 10 each week. Compared to Shrek, Atlantis: The Lost Empire is still at the bottom of the ocean.

Buena Vista’s PG-13 crazy/beautiful snagged an estimated $4.5 million, peforming closer to Kirsten Dunst’s previous Get Over It flop than breakout Bring It On.

For Pearl Harbor watchers: The Buena Vista war romance took in $4.4 million, hiking its total to date to $179.4 million.

Just for the record: Paramount’s PG-13 Pootie Tang comedy, based on a character from Chris Rock’s old HBO show, collected $1.55 million in its bare debut and failed to locate the top 10. On the other hand, it only cost $3.5 million to make, so it’s one third of its way to breaking even, and how many films of any kind can make that kind of opening weekend claim, eh?

Tumbling out of the top 10: Fox’s musical romance Moulin Rouge with an estimated $2.4 million this weekend for a total to date of $48 million; DreamWorks/Sony’s sci-fi spoof Evolution with an estimated $1.3 million this weekend for a $35.3 million total to date; and Sony’s The Animal with an estimated $1.1 million this weekend for a $53.7 million total to date. Keep in mind that The Animal cost $22 million to make, so don’t forget to put an animal -- talking or silent -- in your next movie. It'll make a big difference at the box office.

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