‘Mummy’ dearest for U

Pic unravels $44 mil to set record for May

Universal wrapped up the domestic marketplace with a record-breaking $44.7 million debut for “The Mummy.” The effects-laden horror adventure exhumed the top May non-holiday preem ever in its 3,210-theater expedition and opened with the year’s top theater average of $13,930.

“The Mummy,” first unearthed in 1932 by Universal with Boris Karloff and revived by Britain’s Hammer Studios in 1959, accounted for a little more than half of the weekend’s ticket sales. Getting a jump-start on the anticipated onslaught of “Star Wars, Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace,” the film dug deep into the core moviegoing crowd and should minimally gross $80 million prior to the May 19 “Star Wars” arrival.

“We couldn’t be happier with the results,” said Universal distribution prez Nikki Rocco. “With this film and ‘Notting Hill,’ I believe, we’ve effectively bookended ‘Star Wars’ and it’s the right strategy because of the enormous and varied tastes of the viewing public.”

The picture is Universal’s third biggest opener after the two “Jurassic Park” movies and ranks eighth among all-time openers and fifth among non-holiday preems if estimates hold close to projections.

The frame should wind with a tally of slightly better than $85 million. That tops 1998’s B.O. by 10% and is a sizable 49% boost from seven days ago. Domestic box office advanced to a $2.1 billion cume, 6% behind last year’s record pace.

‘Entrapment’ in 2nd

In its second weekend, Fox’s “Entrapment” caged second spot with an estimated $12.2 million. The caper-romance with Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones had a sharp 39% drop for a $4,270 average. Its 2,855 heists have grossed $38.3 million in 10 days in release.

Warner Bros.’ 1999 box office champ “The Matrix” receded 31% to finish third with $6 million. The futuristic thriller emerged from 2,860 pods for a virtual reality average of $2,350. It’s grossed $138.6 million to date.

Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence saw their sentence reduced by 48% to $3.4 million in Universal’s “Life.” Nosing into fourth spot, the broad social comedy averaged $1,390 at 2,438 cells. Its cume jumped the wall to $51.2 million.

Paramount’s nichey comedy “Election” added 813 theaters and placed fifth overall with $3.3 million. The dirty tricks romp expanded well, polling a $3,940 average from 827 precincts. However, in light of upcoming heavy-hitter event pics, its incumbency could be greatly shaken in the coming weeks. The film’s cume is $3.8 million.

‘Father’ figures well

Best of the specialized freshmen was Sony Classics’ multigenerational romance “This Is My Father,” which grossed $65,000 at nine sites. The Irish period piece debuted with a $7,200 average. Also strong was Stratosphere’s Chinese saga “Xiu Xiu: the Sent Down Girl” which grossed approximately $25,000 at three locales.

Other new fare paled by comparison. Providence’s “Revelations” weighed in with $30,000 from 15 playdates while Miramax’s broad Australian comedy import “The Castle” had a $24,500 B.O. from seven saloons. Both Lions Gates’ “The Empty Mirror” — a rumination on the last days of Hitler — and Heartland’s quirky American indie “Tequila Body Shots” were eying $6,000 weekends for respective averages of $1,500 and $320.

Fox’s “Never Been Kissed” bussed $3 million more to rank sixth, slipping by a modest 28%. The Drew Barrymore vehicle had a $1,230 average at 2,390 smooching booths to bring its cume to $40.5 million.

Warner Bros.’ scored its second $100 million title of 1999 as “Analyze This” exposed $1.8 million for the frame and placed seventh. The Goodfellas comedy shrunk just 18% from 1,995 couches. Also reduced was the theater average, which fell to $900 but was more than enough to bring the pic’s cume to $100.9 million.

Touchstone’s “10 Things I Hate About You” counted eighth with $1.2 million. Tamed 34% for the span, the shrewish princess averaged $700 in 1,712 engagements. Its cume is $32.7 million.

‘Fortune’s’ down

October’s “Cookie’s Fortune” snapped into ninth with $850,000 and a $1,530 average. The Southern discomfort comedy-drama ebbed by 15% in 552 bakeries for a cume of $7.7 million.

October also had a solid expansion for its Sundance-prized, Vietnam-set “Three Seasons,” which went from four to 22 sites and had a $170,000 B.O. and 227% boost. Less buoyant was Paramount Classic’s wry gay-themed maiden issue “Get Real,” which added 11 screens (17 total) for a 2% bump and $55,000 gross.

Miramax’s “Shakespeare in Love” returned to close the top 10 with a $760,000 frame. Slipping 8%, the Oscar winner had an $840 average at 903 venues. Its cume is $93.9 million. Miramax Oscar stablemate “Life Is Beautiful” added $700,000 domestically and that pushed its global gross to $200 million — a first for an Italian-lingo pic.