'Scary' tries to hang tough in its soph sesh

HOLLYWOOD — This Friday the 13th, the only horror pic in sight is a spoof of the genre, as Miramax’s “Scary Movie 2″ tries to avoid a frightening soph-sesh drop against new competish from a comedy, a drama and a high-profile computer-animated fantasy.

That could be a daunting proposition, given the 52% plummet Warner Bros./DreamWorks’ sci-fi fantasy “A.I. Artificial Intelligence” saw in its second frame and the previous weekend’s 50% falloff for Universal’s street-racing actioner “The Fast and the Furious” in its second weekend lap.

Sony’s computer-animated “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” bowed Wednesday in 2,649 theaters amid reviews giving uniformly high marks to its computer-generated look and generally low grades to its plodding storyline. But marketing and distrib prexy Jeff Blake said a first-day gross of $5 million has the studio expecting big things from “Final Fantasy’s” first weekend.

Internet ticketer Fandango said “Final Fantasy” repped more than 70% of its ticket sales on Wednesday. Most observers expect super-realistic CGI pic to finish the weekend on top of the B.O. chart.

Japanese producer Square Pictures — an offshoot of the company that spawned the huge “Final Fantasy” vidgame — funded production costs of more than $115 million for the film. Square also constructed a $45 million computer-animation facility in Hawaii for the production.

Sony grabbed domestic distribution and most worldwide theatrical rights outside of Japan. In return, it’s believed to be on the hook for prints and advertising costs likely to run about $30 million domestically, $50 million overall.

‘Blonde’ looks strong

Meanwhile, MGM unspools young-skewing laffer “Legally Blonde” in 2,620 venues this weekend. Reese Witherspoon starrer, produced for less than $20 million, is tracking best with females.

“We’re looking at a decent opening, though probably not a blockbuster,” said Bob Levin, the Lion’s new marketing and distribution prexy. “Sneaks were very strong, the screenings this week were very strong, and our tracking is very strong.”

Levin recently replaced ankling distrib topper Larry Gleason and marketing head Gerry Rich. The latter exec’s campaign for the pic, tale of a ditzy wannabe lawyer, has been heavy on press publicity featuring dumb-blonde gags.

“Blonde” is thought to be flirting with an opening in the low-teen millions. That or a smidgen more also figures to be about the B.O. take for Paramount’s “The Score,” a heist pic starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Marlon Brando that’s set for 2,129 engagements.

“The reviews are great,” Par vice chairman Rob Friedman said. “We’re very excited.”

Pic skews to “adult males and females, with a secondary (audience) of young males,” Friedman said. But, he acknowledges, “Young adults will be caught up in ‘Final Fantasy’ to some extent.”

It’s believed Par paid about $18 million for domestic distribution and some foreign rights to “The Score,” an estimated $68 million co-production with Mandalay Pictures.

Limited openers this weekend include Lions Gate’s high school murder drama “Bully” from helmer Larry Clark (“Kids”), which has a half-dozen playdates in Gotham, L.A. and San Francisco, and Artisan’s mob laffer “Made,” Jon Favreau’s directorial debut, which hits a trio of Gotham and L.A. locations.

SUMMER SIESTA FOR ART FARE
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Summer arthouse grosses to date are roughly on pace with last summer, but the season has been slipping since ’98. One new limited entry today is John Favreau’s "Made."
Summer to date B.O.* Summer B.O.**
 2001 39 ?

 2000 40 89

 1999 47 97
 1998 41 102
 1997 22 59
*through July 4th period               **in millions of $

OPENINGS
Movie Title Engagements
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (Sony) Bowed Wed. 2,649
Legally Blonde (MGM / UA)
2,620
The Score (Paramount)
2,129
Bully(Lions Gate)
6
Made (Artisan)LA, NY
3
Adanggaman(New Yorker) NY, Bowed Wed.
1
Downtown 81 (Zeitgeist)NY
1
Obscure Object of Desire (Rialto) NY 1
EXPANDING
Kiss of the Dragon(Fox) 2,025 – 2,100
Songcatcher (Lions Gate) 37 – 72

YEAR TO DATE*
(in millions of $)
3,703


2000
(thru July 9)

3,955
+7%

2001
(thru July 10)

RELEASE DATES AND CHANGES
As of July 12, 2001
Movie Title
New date
Old date
DREAMWORKS
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
August 17
August 10

FINE LINE
Storytelling

October 12

September 28
Invincible

October 26

September 14
Human Nature 1st quarter 2002 November 2
Domani Spring 2002 January 25
MIRAMAX
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
August 22
August 24
The Accidental Spy
December 21

PARAMOUNT CLASSICS
Focus

October 10

September 28

My First Mister November 2 November 9

FOX
Don’t Say a Word
October 5

November 21
Black Knight

November 21

January 11

Behind Enemy Lines

January 18

October 5

The Dubbed Action Movie…

February 15
1st quarter ’02

UNIVERSAL
Mullholland Drive
October 12
Harrison’s Flowers 1st quarter 2002 September 21
Bold indicates new entry
*In millions of $                                               Source: ACNielsen EDI FilmSource
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