U doing summer-saults

Dino might, more 'Pie' pace victory

More flesh-eating dinos, surprising nitro-guzzling street racers and a heaping second helping of “Pie” drove Universal to the top of the summer box office with seasonal grosses totaling $513.4 million, or a distribs-best 17% marketshare.

Overall, summer 2001 set a new B.O. record but not a new admissions mark (Daily Variety, Aug. 31). This summer’s estimated $2.95 billion in B.O. was 11% better than summer 2000 and 6% ahead of summer 1999, the previous record holder. Summer ’99 still holds the all-time admissions record at 550 million. Box office tracker ACNielsen EDI estimates movie-ticket prices currently average about $5.66, which means roughly 522 million tickets were sold this summer. That’s 6% more than last summer.

The summer’s top-grossing pic was a tooner that bowed before the start of the actual season. DreamWorks’ laffer “Shrek,” blockbuster tale of a lovable ogre, grossed $206.4 million between the Memorial Day and Labor Day frames. But as distrib’s only significant summer player, even leggy “Shrek” couldn’t place DreamWorks among the season’s marketshare leaders. U’s marketshare win over second-place Disney was bolstered by the seasonal perf of another pre-summer opener, “The Mummy Returns.” Sequel actioner opened the first weekend of May and played strongly well into summer.

“It does take a little guts to be the first picture out there,” U distrib prexy Nikki Rocco said. “Memorial Day is always the most enticing weekend, and you say to yourself ‘Will the audiences be there earlier?’ ” Turns out they were, as “Mummy Returns” piled up $201.7 million domestically including an estimated $90,000 over the season-closing holiday frame.

No. 2 pic on the summer was New Line’s action comedy “Rush Hour 2” ($199 million) and Disney’s “Pearl Harbor” finished third.

“Pearl Harbor,” which bowed over the summer-launching Memorial Day sesh, was re-expanded to 1,036 playdates over the Labor Day weekend. World War II epic’s $1.2 million in four-day estimated B.O. moved cume to $196.7 million.

“Diary” lifts Disney

Mouse House execs now project pic’s total domestic run will reach $202 million. But Mouse owes its silver-medal perf this summer less to the underwhelming run of hugely hyped “Harbor” and more to the surprise success of “The Princess Diaries.”

Along with U’s teen-oriented street-racing drama “The Fast and the Furious,” the G-rated Julie Andrews starrer was a true summer sleeper. Both pics broke bigger than expected and played longer than anticipated.

U’s other big summer hits were sequels — family actioner “Jurassic Park III” and young-skewing laffer “American Pie 2.”

Apes, animals lift Fox

20th Century Fox rode to third place on the strength of its “Planet of the Apes” update and “Dr. Doolittle 2,” a sequel to its talking-animals remake.

“We were running ahead of (Disney) until ‘Princess Diaries’ opened,” Fox exec veep sales Rick Myerson noted. “We had a great summer.”

Mouse distrib boss Chuck Viane said the “summer held up to our expectations in total.” But he acknowledged Disney “probably expected a little more out of ‘Atlantis.’ ” Family tooner, which also was re-expanded over the Labor Day frame, grossed an estimated $900,000 in 785 theaters over four days to move cume to $82.4 million — disappointing by high Mouse standards.

In a year-to-date comparison with 2000 — at a point two-thirds into the current calendar — 2001 stands 9% ahead of the same period last year with industrywide grosses of $5.6 billion.

U also leads in year-to-date B.O. marketshare, at 13%. Paramount is No. 2 with a roughly 11% marketshare so far this year.

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