‘World’ props up slow B.O.

While “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” swallowed a T-Rex size $34.1 million gross in its sophomore outing, overall box office for the post Memorial Day frame was off 9% compared with this time last year.

The total for the top 60 films came to $76 million, down from $83.3 million during the comparable weekend in 1996. It was only the third time this year that the weekend tally dropped below 1996 levels.

The poor attendance was due in large part to rival studios’ decision not to open any high-profile films out of fear they would be trampled by the “Lost World” stampede.

Although “Lost World” dropped 53% from its Earth-shattering $72.5 million three-day opening, the studios’ strategy turned into a self-fulfilling prophecy, just as it did the weekend before “Lost World” opened.

Second-tier product

Distributors used the frame as a dumping ground for product for which they had low expectations.

“Gone Fishin,’ ” the product of a troubled and costly production, whose release Buena Vista repeatedly has postponed since last summer, lured just $5.7 million in its opening weekend.

New Line’s “Trial and Error” managed only $4.9 million and Lakeshore and Paramount’s ” ‘Til There Was You” sang in 753 locations for an off-key $1.3 million.

(One wag posited the apostrophe theory, noting that films whose titles use the raised comma in place of a letter seemed to fare poorly. Remember “Gridlock’d”?)

Missed opportunity

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight however, it’s clear there was room for another big film in the marketplace.

Ironically, the wide berth given to “Lost World” has had the effect of slowing momentum in an otherwise record-breaking year at the box office.

Distributors and exhibitors alike are hopeful that things will pick up again in coming weeks with the releases of BV’s “Con Air,” Fox’s “Speed 2: Cruise Control,” WB’s “Batman and Robin,” Sony’s “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” Paramount’s “Face/Off,” BV’s “Hercules” and Sony’s “Men in Black” and “Air Force One.”

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