Boffosaurus bow

'Jurassic 3' does $30 mil heading into weekend

Update: Universal’s “Jurassic Park III” grossed another $11.6 million Thursday to bring its two-day cume to $30.6 million.

Dino-pic cost $92 million to make, but it is on pace to equal that figure at the box office within a week of release.

Total grosses for the summer are still 4% ahead of 2000 levels, but the lead has been shrinking after three straight weekends of year-to-year declines. Admissions have been flat.

– Dade Hayes

July 19, 2001 5:00 p.m. — It’s a showdown between killer dinos and a killer smile, as relative sure-shots with distinct segments of the moviegoing aud face off in a battle for broader auds.

Universal’s dino sequel “Jurassic Park III,” which opened Wednesday with a boffo first-day gross of $19 million, chomps into 3,434 theaters this weekend and is expected to draw strongest with teen males. But with its inaugural numbers the second best ever for a Wednesday bow — trailing the $28.5 million to which “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” bowed in 1999 — pic clearly will play quite broadly and should top the weekend box office.

“That’s a great start,” U distrib prexy Nikki Rocco enthused over the first-day grosses for “JPIII.” “It’s an event film, and our expectations are for blockbuster status.”

Looking to get at least a piece of the widest demos will be Sony/Revolution Studios’ “America’s Sweethearts,” a strongly female-skewing ensemble laffer toplined by box office darling Julia Roberts. “Sweethearts” woos moviegoers in 3,011 engagements starting today.

Last weekend’s disappointing grosses for Sony’s vidgame spinoff “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” serve as warning that a big Wednesday doesn’t guarantee that boffo Friday- Sunday grosses will follow. But unlike “Final Fantasy,” “JPIII” builds on a proven movie franchise, so its weekend expectations are still through the roof.

The first dino sequel debuted over 1997’s long Memorial Day frame to a record $90.2 million; “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” went on to reap a total of $357.1 million domestically. “JPIII,” which Stephen Spielberg exec produced and Joe Johnston (“Jumanji”) directed, was produced at an estimated cost of $92 million.

Helping out overall

Revolution partner Tom Sherak said he believes that the big bow for “JPIII” actually bodes well for “Sweethearts” because it reflects a resurgence in the recently sluggish summer market, and that’s good for all current releases.

“When that picture opened the way it did, that kind of kick-started things again,” Sherak reasoned.

“Sweethearts,” which also features Billy Crystal, Catherine Zeta-Jones and John Cusack, marks a return to helming for Revolution topper Joe Roth. The former Disney exec, while a producing icon, hasn’t been behind the camera since lensing laffer “Coupe de Ville” (1990).

A big opening weekend could be important for both “JPIII” and “Sweethearts”: No summer opener has managed to stave off severe second-week drops. Sony and Revolution hope the absence of many romantic comedies this summer will strengthen the long-playing prospects for “Sweethearts.”

“Everything is falling into place pretty much the way we hoped,” Sherak said.

Critical edge?

The Revolution Studio pic has drawn more favorable reviews than “JPIII” — though still mixed — as Roth’s fledgling company remains on the hunt for its first breakout success.

Sony and Revolution pics have a complicated formula for sharing box office on co-productions, with the partners generally splitting costs and profits and Sony getting a distribution fee.

“Sweethearts” was produced for an estimated $46 million.

Meanwhile, particularly hairy competish looms next weekend. “Planet of the Apes,” 20th Century Fox’s 800 pound gorilla of a classic-movie update, is set for saturation-level release, with buzz so high, no other studio has dared to pencil in another wide opening for the frame.

Entering their soph seshes this weekend are MGM laffer “Legally Blonde,” Paramount heist pic “The Score” and computer-animated “Final Fantasy.” Each will be trying to go against all precedent this summer and hold better than 50% of opening-weekend grosses of $20.4 million, $19 million and $11.4 million, respectively.

‘Ghost’ shows itself

MGM’s United Artists unspools the black comedy “Ghost World” in two locations each in Gotham and L.A., and one in Seattle. The release is notable for the Lion’s specialty unit, which has been quiet in recent months and attracted little heat with the spring release of Michael Winterbottom drama “The Claim.”

“I think we really have hopes that this movie can catch hold,” marketing-distrib prexy Bob Levin said. “We’re talking about an expansion into seven more markets on Aug. 3, and then we’ll see where we’re heading.”

Bowing on nine screens in Gotham, L.A. and San Francisco this weekend is Sony Pictures Classics’ “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a transsexual rock comedy that earned kudos at Sundance this year.

Fine Line’s Japanese actioner “Brother” opens in 11 L.A. and Gotham locations.

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