B.O. in May 3% below ’96

May’s domestic box office weighed in with a hefty $502.2 million, but it wasn’t quite enough to topple the 1996 record of $517 million.

Despite “The Lost World: Jurassic Park’s” raging dinos, May business dipped by 3% and admissions ebbed 4.5% from last year. However, through the end of the month, the year-to-date box office was running 12% ahead of record ’96: the year’s cume so far has hit $2.45 billion.

The “Jurassic Park” sequel was the saving grace of a month dotted with midrange performers. The industry decision to steer clear of “Lost” pre-hysteria contributed to soft overall performance, compared to last year’s massive expansion when “Twister” and “Mission: Impossible” were ringing up sales.

Universal led the frame with a gross of $165.5 million, which translated into 33% of the marketplace. The company also had the best individual performer in “Lost World.” Bridesmaid Sony trailed significantly with a $72.6 million monthly cume and 14.5% of the big picture.

An estimated 92 million tickets were sold last month, down approximately 4 million from 1996. And while the summer’s big guns were starting to simmer, the specialized arena all but evaporated. Among the few niche pics to show any signs of life were Fine Line’s “Love! Valour! Compassion!” Miramax’s “Chasing Amy” and Trimark’s “Kama Sutra.”

Following “The Lost World,” the top May titles (in descending order) were: Sony’s “The Fifth Element,” Paramount’s “Breakdown,” New Line’s “Austin Powers,” Fox’s “Volcano,” Warner Bros.’ “Father’s Day,” Universal’s “Liar, Liar,” Warner Bros.’ “Addicted to Love,” Buena Vista’s “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion” and Sony’s “Anaconda.”

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