June can’t shake gloom

'Speed 2' stalls at $16.2 mil; summer slide continues

Twentieth Century Fox’s “Speed 2: Cruise Control” chugged to a water-logged $16.2 million in its maiden voyage, crossing the finish line just ahead of Buena Vista’s sophomore “Con Air,” which dipped 37% to $15.2 million, according to studio estimates.

Meanwhile, Universal’s four-week-old “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” lumbered into third place, down just 35% to $12 million. That brings the dino sequel’s cume to a man-eating $190.3 million.

Overall, the box office remained unseasonably cool for mid-June: Total ticket sales for $500,000-plus grossers were estimated at a chilly $56.4 million, a 19% drop in the mercury from this time last year. It was the fourth weekend of the past five to perform below 1996 levels.

‘Speed 2’ swifter than first

“Speed 2’s” bow, while disappointing, was in fact swifter than that of its precursor. “Speed” opened to $14.5 million on June 10, 1994, eventually revving up ticket sales of $121 million domestically and $235 worldwide.

However, in today’s cut-throat marketplace, few films rack up cumes equivalent to more than eight times their opening weekend gross. Multiples of between three and four are far more common.

Moreover, “Speed” was launched in 2,138 bus stops, giving it a $6,761 per-screen average as opposed to “Speed 2,” which was christened in 2,613 dry docks, for a slightly less auspicious $6,200 per screen.

Long cruise to profitability

More to the point for Fox, with a reported production budget of about $140 million — about four times that of the original — “Speed 2” faces a long cruise to profitability.

“I’m relieved its open,” said Tom Sherak, distribution head of Fox Filmed Entertainment. “Now it will take on a life of its own.”

Sherak blamed some of the market’s sluggishness on Friday’s sixth and final NBA playoff game. He noted, however, that a game-clinching steal by the Chicago Bulls’ Scottie Pippen rescued the movie industry from having to go one-on-one with a seventh game Sunday.

In second place, “Con Air” landed in 2,829 airports for a $5,373 average. Cume after 10 days is $49.4 million.

Market shallow

Indicative of the shallowness of the market, the weekend’s No. 4 film, Warner Bros.’ “Addicted to Love,” took in just $2.3 million. (Last year’s fourth-place film, “Twister,” grossed $7.3 million; even seventh-place “The Phantom” managed $3.1 million).

In 1,948 situations, the Meg Ryan-Matthew Broderick romantic comedy averaged $1,181 per session. After 24 days in treatment, the film has cumed $30.2 million.

Among limited openers, Orion’s “Ulee’s Gold” struck paydirt with $93,800 in seven locations in New York, L.A. and Toronto.

The Peter Fonda starrer rode a wave of publicity to average $13,400 per site.

Miramax’s “Temptress Moon” rose to $66,000 on five screens in New York and L.A., giving the love story by “Farewell My Concubine” helmer Chen Kaige a tempting $13,200 average.

‘Blues’ up 53%

Legacy’s “Wedding Bell Blues” rang in $27,000 in 11 chapels, or $2,454 per union. Apparently benefiting from strong word of mouth, the romantic comedy enjoyed a 53% increase Saturday over Friday.

Miramax’s urban youth drama “Squeeze” squeezed out just $10,300 on four street corners, for a $2,575 average.

Meanwhile, Fine Line’s holdover “Love! Valour! Compassion!” dropped just 18% to $259,000 in 87 outings for a $2,977 average. A month into its platform release, the film has cumed $1.7 million.

Fifth place went to New Line’s “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery,” which also enjoyed the strongest hold among the top 10 films. The Mike Myers comedy was down just 11% to $2.1 million in 1,540 bachelor pads for a $1,364 average. Cume after seven weeks is $46.5 million.

‘Buddy’ falls 43%

In its second weekend, Jim Henson, American Zoetrope and Columbia’s “Buddy” fell 43% to grab just $2 million in 2,113 zoos or $947 per cage. The critically panned kidpic has cumed an abysmal $6.9 million after 10 days in release.

At No. 7, another weak performer, BV’s “Gone Fishin’, ” dropped 37% to reel in $1.9 million in 1,804 ponds for a $1,053 average. Now in its third week, the Joe Pesci-Danny Glover comedy has landed just $13.6 million.

Gaumont and Sony’s “The Fifth Element” dropped 33% to $1.4 million on 1,560 planets for a $897 average. Cume after 38 days is $57.8 million.

Ninth place went to New Line’s “Trial and Error.” Off 50% to $1.3 million, the Jonathan Lynn-helmed comedy averaged a trying $649. Cume after 17 days: $11.4 million.

In 10th, Paramount’s seven-week-old thriller “Breakdown” picked up $1.1 million, down 37% from the previous week. In 1,571 locations, the thriller averaged $700 per screen. Cume: $46.8 million.

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