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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On the limited release front: Miramax Films opens its R-rated contemporary version of "Hamlet" in New York and Los Angeles.
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).
* 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.
* 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).
* 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).