Get ready for another X-citing box office weekend.
After its $54.5 million opening last weekend, 20th Century Fox's "X-Men" should easily hold on to the top spot. Even if it falls 50%, the PG-13-rated sci-fi action adventure will still gross about $27 million.
Directed by Bryan Singer and produced by Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter, "X-Men's" extensive cast is headed by Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellen.
DreamWorks' opening of its R-rated supernatural thriller "What Lies Beneath" (co-financed with Fox, which is releasing it internationally) should materialize in second place. Its 17% overall first choice in the tracking should translate into ticket sales of $20-25 million at 2,500-plus theaters.
"The overall definite interest is 50%," an insider notes. "With men, it's 36% and with women it's 63%. The highest group is 25-plus with 52%. So its (greatest appeal is to) older females."
Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it stars Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer.
Dimension Films' R-rated gross-out comedy horror film spoof "Scary Movie," which fell only 38% to $26.2 million last weekend, should slide one peg to third place. If it drops about 40%, it will do $16-17 million.
Directed by Keenen Ivory Wayans, it stars Carmen Electra and Shannon Elizabeth.
Warner Bros.' G-rated Japanese animated feature "Pokemon The Movie 2000," opening at 2,752 theaters, should finish fourth. Its modest 2% first-choice tracking score is typical of the way films targeted to youngsters track.
"I've got to figure there's still enough life in that to get it to like $10-15 million," a distributor says. "It's a big wild card and, of course, the tracking is no help at all (on kids' films). I've got to feel that there's still enough there that it's going to be in the mix."
Warner Bros.' PG-13-rated adventure drama blockbuster "The Perfect Storm" should sail downstream from third to fifth place. Its 37% decline last weekend gave it $17.1 million. If it's down 40% this weekend, it should do about $10 million.
"'What Lies Beneath' will certainly take (audience) from 'Perfect Storm'," predicts one studio source.
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen, "Storm" stars George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.
Columbia's opening of its PG-13-rated youth appeal comedy "Loser" isn't looking like a box office winner. Its 3% overall first-choice tracking score should put it in sixth place, arriving at 2,016 theaters with about $8 million.
"The definite interest is 35%," says a distribution executive. "It's pretty even male/female - male 33% and female 38%. The biggest group is 12-17, which is 54%."
Written and directed by Amy Heckerling, it stars Jason Biggs, Mena Suvari and Greg Kinnear.
Warner Bros. and Morgan Creek's PG-13-rated psychological thriller "The In Crowd" isn't expected to be in the Top Five after opening quietly Wednesday at 1,357 theaters. It's also a 3% first choice in the tracking.
"The definite interest is 24%," an insider points out. "It's 19% male and 28% female. The biggest group is 12-17 with 41%."
Directed by Mary Lambert, it stars Susan Ward, Lori Heuring, Matthew Settle and Nathan Bexton.
Filling out lower rungs this weekend: "The Patriot," "Disney's The Kid," "Chicken Run" and "Me, Myself & Irene."
On this weekend's limited release front: USA Films' French drama "Alice Et Martin" opens in New York.
Directed by Andre Techine, it stars Juliette Binoche.
Fine Line Features' R-rated comedy drama "The Five Senses," which opened last week in New York, now moves into Los Angeles.
Written and directed by Jeremy Podeswa, it stars Mary-Louise Parker and Brendan Fletcher.
Lions Gate Films' PG-13-rated "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," a documentary about the life of Tammy Faye Baker, opens in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
Looking ahead, an insider notes that Universal and Imagine Entertainment's PG-13-rated comedy sequel "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps" starring Eddie Murphy is tracking well. Although "Nutty" doesn't kick off until July 28 - at 3,000-plus theaters - it's already a 9% overall first choice. That number, of course, will grow substantially as its opening date approaches. Insiders are anticipating a very muscular opening for "Nutty II."
The original "Nutty" opened June 28, 1996, to $25.41 million at 2,115 theaters ($12,015 per theater). It went on to do $128.8 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Peter Segal, it stars Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson and Larry Miller.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13-rated romantic comedy drama "Coyote Ugly" is also sitting pretty in the tracking. The Jerry Bruckheimer production doesn't open until Aug. 4 but is already a 6% overall first choice. "Ugly" is being talked about by some observers as a possible summer sleeper.
DreamWorks' "Gladiator" should be victorious again on the box office battlefield this weekend.
With "Gladiator" still commanding a 30% first-choice tracking score among opening and released movies, there's little doubt the R-rated action adventure will keep a tight grip on the top spot.
If "Gladiator" slips 36% from its $34.8 million opening, its second weekend tribute will still be a handsome sum of about $22 million.
DreamWorks is distributing "Gladiator" domestically, while Universal is releasing it internationally. The two studios co-financed the film, which reportedly cost $103 million to make, and are 50-50 partners, sharing equally in its success.
Directed by Ridley Scott, it stars Russell Crowe.
Warner Bros. and Franchise Pictures' PG-13 rated sci-fi action adventure "Battlefield Earth," opening at 3,307 theaters, should win the battle for second place. With its 19% overall first-choice tracking score, it's likely to gross about $10 million.
"It's a 22% first choice for males under 25 and a 29% first choice for males over 25," explains one studio executive. "Its awareness is 80% and the definite interest is 42% for males."
Directed by Roger Christian, it stars John Travolta, Barry Pepper and Forest Whitaker.
Universal's PG-13-rated comedy "Screwed," opening at 1,760 theaters, is a 12% first choice in the tracking. It is likely to be third with $7-8 million.
"It certainly did pop on the tracking," says an insider. "It's a 20% first choice for males. The awareness for males is 81% and the definite interest is 48% for males."
Written and directed by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, it stars Norm MacDonald, David Chappelle and Danny DeVito.
Universal's "U-571" should float downstream two slots to fourth place in its fourth week. If the PG-13-rated World War II submarine drama falls 40%, it will gross about $5 million.
Directed by Jonathan Mostow, "U-571" stars Matthew McConaughey, Bill Paxton, Harvey Keitel and Jon Bon Jovi.
New Line's PG-13-rated time thriller "Frequency" should tumble one peg to fifth place in its third week. If it slides 35%, it will do about $4 million.
Directed by Gregory Hoblit, it stars Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel.
Columbia's PG-13-rated youth appeal dance film "Center Stage," opening at 1,506 theaters, isn't likely to kick off in the Top Five given its modest 7% first-choice tracking.
"It's not showing on the tracking much at all," notes one studio executive.
Directed by Nicholas Hytner, it stars Amanda Schull, Zoe Saldana, Susan May Pratt, Peter Gallagher, Donna Murphy and Ethan Stiefel.
20th Century Fox's PG-13-rated drama "Where the Heart Is," a $9 million domestic pick up for Fox, was fifth with $5.1 million last week. Its third week should see it depart the Top Five.
Directed and produced by Matt Williams, it stars Natalie Portman, Ashley Judd, Stockard Channing and Joan Cusack.
Columbia's "I Dreamed Of Africa," which opened in ninth place last week to just $2.4 million, will be struggling to stay in the Top Ten in its second week.
"Africa," made on a mid-range budget of about $34 million, is directed by Hugh Hudson and stars Kim Basinger.
Filling out lower rungs: "Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas" and "Love & Basketball."
On the limited release front: Miramax Films opens its R-rated contemporary version of "Hamlet" in New York and Los Angeles.
Directed by Michael Almereyda, it stars Ethan Hawke, Kyle MacLachlan, Sam Shepard, Diane Venora, Bill Murray, Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles.
Although this weekend won't set any records, insiders are happy because they anticipate a strong summer season spread around among most of the major studios. That's exactly the sort of summer theater owners enjoy most since it keeps their multiplexes filled with moviegoers, who are certain to buy their share of popcorn, candy and soda.
This summer should see business spread around among many mid-sized hits rather than concentrated, as it was last summer, in two mega-hits -- Fox and Lucasfilm's "Star Wars: Episode One - The Phantom Menace" and New Line's "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me." Together, the two sequels did about $626 million in ticket sales through Labor Day weekend.
This summer there already are very high hopes for Paramount's "Mission: Impossible 2," which will own Memorial Day weekend. Although "M: I-2" doesn't arrive until May 24, it's already an enviable 23% first choice in the tracking. The original "Mission: Impossible" opened May 22, 1996, and grossed $180.9 million domestically, $284 million internationally -- for a worldwide total of $464.9 million.
Memorial Day weekend hits don't always wind up as the summer's biggest grossing films. The original "Mission," for example, was out-grossed by "Twister," which opened nearly two weeks earlier on May 10, 1996, and went on to gross $241.7 million domestically, $254 million internationally -- for a worldwide cume of $495.7 million.
Hollywood has found over the years that movies opening in mid-June or for July Fourth weekend often are the ones that rewrite the record books.
For instance, "Jurassic Park" opened June 11, 1993, and did $357 million domestically. "Independence Day" opened July 3, 1996, and did $306.2 million domestically. "The Lion King" arrived June 15, 1994, and did $312.8 million domestically. "Forrest Gump" opened July 6, 1994, and did $329.7 million domestically. "Men In Black" opened July 2, 1997, and did $250.1 million domestically. "Ghost" appeared July 13, 1990, and did $217.6 million domestically.
Looking beyond "M: I-2," at least eight other summer releases are already shaping up as potentially big box office contenders. Those generating the best buzz at this early point - listed in order of their release dates - include:
* Buena Vista/Disney's computer-animated family film "Dinosaur," which reportedly cost $150 million-plus to make (May 19).
* 20th Century Fox's R-rated comedy "Me, Myself & Irene," directed by Bobby and Peter Farrelly ("There's Something About Mary") and starring Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger (June 23).
* Columbia's action-adventure "The Patriot," set during the Revolutionary War, directed by Roland Emmerich ("Independence Day") and starring Mel Gibson (June 28), which reportedly cost about $100 million to make.
* Warner Bros.' Action-adventure "The Perfect Storm," directed by Wolfgang Petersen ("Air Force One") and starring George Clooney, which reportedly cost about $120 million to make (June 30).
* 20th Century Fox's live-action fantasy-adventure "X-Men," based on the best-selling comic book series, directed by Bryan Singer ("The Usual Suspects") and starring Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ray Park and Anna Paquin (July 14).
* DreamWorks' fantasy thriller "What Lies Beneath," directed by Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") and starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer (July 21).
* Universal and Imagine Entertainment's comedy sequel "Nutty Professor II: The Klumps," directed by Peter Seagal ("Tommy Boy") and starring Eddie Murphy, Janet Jackson, Larry Miller and John Ales (July 28).
* 20th Century Fox's comedy remake "Bedazzled," directed by Harold Ramis ("Groundhog Day") and starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley, a potential summer sleeper (Aug. 11).