Par's vidgame pic clicks $48 mil as 'Atlantis' treads water

Paramount’s vidgame adaptation “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” plundered an estimated $48.2 million in opening box office, while Disney’s family adventure “Atlantis” saw the smallest summer bow in years for a Mouse House toon feature at $20.4 million.

Meanwhile, DreamWorks’ “Shrek” continued to play B.O. ogre, as computer-animated laffer rang up another $12.9 million in three-day estimated grosses with a sesh-best 22% drop from a week ago. Pic reached $197.2 million through five frames, and distrib expects “Shrek” to sail through $200 million by midweek.

By contrast, Disney’s “Pearl Harbor” seems to have hit choppy waters. World War II actioner dropped 35% in its fourth week to gross $9.5 million and move its cume to $160 million. Distrib maintains “Harbor” still can make it to $200 million domestically.

Studio execs say the “Atlantis” bow was hampered by strong competish and suggest perf will improve over the longer haul.

“In light of opening against a movie that did almost $50 million, it’s real good,” Disney distrib prexy Chuck Viane said of the “Atlantis” bow. “For us to be able to hang in on that one is real good.”

Prior to “Atlantis,” which cost at least $90 million to make, Disney’s weakest recent summer bow for a toon feature came in June 1997, when “Hercules” opened at $21 million. That’s the same mark posted by Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” in June 1996.

Industrywide, distribs judged the $129 million weekend the biggest Father’s Day frame ever. That’s up 22% from a year ago and means 2001 to date is 7% ahead of the same period of last year, according to data from box office tracker ACNielsen EDI.

Even the recently soft specialty market seemed to perk up this weekend, with Fox Searchlight’s gangster-themed “Sexy Beast” a particular standout.

Well-reviewed Ben Kingsley starrer bowed at $180,695 in nine theaters in L.A., Gotham and Toronto. That repped a boffo $20,077 per venue.

“It’s great to see that in the midst of all the mega-movies, people are still hungry for something smart and different,” Fox Searchlight distrib prexy Steve Giulula said.

Distrib expands “Beast” to 55 top-market locations on Friday.

‘Party’ on

Elsewhere among art pics, Fine Line’s ensemble drama “The Anniversary Party” celebrated with a soph sesh of $188,000 from 16 engagements in L.A., Gotham and three Canadian cities — good for a festive $11,750 average. The helming debut of topliners Jennifer Jason Lee and Alan Cumming, “Party” widens to 100 locations Friday.

Lions Gate’s Appalachian songfest “Songcatcher” belted out $42,000 as it bowed in seven L.A. and Gotham venues for a full-throated $6,000 average. Platforming broadens to include four San Francisco theaters next weekend.

“The grosses went up 100% from Friday to Saturday,” Lions Gate co-prexy Tom Ortenberg noted. “Hopefully that indicates some good word of mouth for ‘Songcatcher’ that will begin to speed things along.”

Newmarket’s amnesia thriller “Memento” grossed $711,356 from 397 theaters. Though repping a forgettable $1,776 per-screen average, but Guy Pearce starrer moved its cume to memorable $18.4 million.

The proportions of the “Tomb Raider” bow had Par execs enthusing over prospects for pic’s holding auds against tough competish in looming frames.

“We’re definitely assured of a long-term playability,” Par vice chairman Rob Friedman said. “I’m thrilled.”

Next weekend, pic will face a pair of wide openers — 20th Century Fox’s sequel laffer “Dr. Dolittle 2″ and Universal’s street-racing actioner “The Fast and the Furious.” The following frame features four more wide bows, including Steven Spielberg’s highly anticipated “A.I.” from Warner Bros.

Friedman noted good marks for topliner Angelina Jolie among decidedly mixed reviews for pic and labeled bow best ever for a femme-starring actioner. “Angelina was just superb,” he enthused.

Jolie’s hot

Opening was easily Jolie’s personal best, nearly doubling the $25.3 million for last year’s “Gone in Sixty Seconds” in which she starred opposite Nicolas Cage.

“Tomb Raider,” which Par said cost $80 million to produce, skewed 55% male and split evenly older and younger than 25. Not surprisingly for a youthful pic, “Raider” enjoyed a more robust Friday than Saturday. And all distribs were hoping Sunday would prove an especially good moviegoing day when official B.O. tallies for the weekend are accumulated.

The Father’s Day holiday is historically a strong one. But wet East Coast weather may have driven even more families to theaters than usual.

DreamWorks’ “Evolution” emerged as the biggest backslider among the top 10 pics this weekend with a 52% drop. Soph-sesh perf of $6.5 million pushes cume for effects-driven laffer to just $25.4 million.

By comparison, Warner Bros.’ John Travolta actioner “Swordfish” grossed $12.2 million in its second weekend, after a modest 33% drop. Warner’s distrib prexy Dan Fellman said pic, a Village Roadshow co-production, seems on track to do at least $70 million domestically.

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