‘Batman,’ ‘Wedding’ revive B.O.

The powerful debuts of Warner Bros.’ “Batman and Robin” and Sony’s “My Best Friend’s Wedding” lifted the summer box office out of its three-week slump.

Total ticket sales for the top 60 films came to $103.8 million, a 6% improvement over the June 21-23, 1996 frame, when WB’s “Eraser” and BV’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” topped the chart.

Meanwhile, business was up 60% from last weekend.

The two newcomers accounted for 62% of the weekend total. They also brought to five the number of high-profile summer films in the marketplace, adding some much-needed depth to the field.

Grosses drop off sharply once you get below the top five, however. The No. 6, film New Line’s eight-week-old stalwart “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” grossed $1.3 million.

By contrast, last year at this time, the No. 9 film, Paramount’s “The Phantom” grossed $1.6 million.

Olympian gross

Amazingly, BV’s “Hercules” narrowly missed making the top 10 chart with its $852,103 gross — despite playing only in single runs in New York and Chicago.

“Hercules,” which goes wide Friday, could significantly cut into “Batman’s” share of the family audience.

Paramount’s “Face/Off” also bows Friday. The John Woo action pic, which stars John Travolta and Nicolas Cage, needs a big weekend to quickly establish itself with its target audience of young males.

Just four days later, Sony begins advanced screenings of “Men in Black,” which is tracking phenomenally well.

Arthouse winners

Among specialized releases, “Ulee’s Gold” continued to shine with $302,376 in 33 mines in the top 20 markets. That’s a lustrous $9,163 per site.

CFP’s “The Pillow Book” cozied up to $243,419 after expanding from 13 to 53 beds.

Miramax’s “Temptress Moon” was less alluring, grossing $178,275 in 34 locations, for a $5,243 average.

Also bowing were Roxie’s “The Last Time I Committed Suicide,” which swallowed $12,836 in four funeral homes, or $3,209 per screen; and Manga Entertainment’s “Tetsuo II: Body Hammer” which nailed $2,550 in a single Chicago theater.

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