Monday, July 08, 2002

MIB sequel sets box-office holiday mark

The Associated Press

        Men in Black II grabbed fistfuls of little green dollars at the box office as the alien-busting sequel debuted with $54.1 million in its first weekend, slightly more than the original took in.

        That set a new record for a Fourth of July weekend, topping the $51.1 million the original Men in Black earned in 1997. But factoring in price increases, the sequel sold fewer tickets.

        The overall box-office also set a new Fourth of July record. The top 12 films alone grossed an estimated $219 million from Wednesday to Sunday, compared with $198.2 million for the top 50 movies over the five-day July Fourth weekend in 1996.

        On top of its $54.1 million Friday to Sunday total, “Men in Black II” has grossed $90 million since opening Wednesday, compared with $84.1 million for the original in its first five days.

        Men in Black II, which reunites Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as dark-clad agents for an agency that polices alien activity, packed theaters despite generally poor reviews.

        The film bumped last weekend's top movie, Adam Sandler's Mr. Deeds, to second place with $18.8 million in its second weekend. That pushed its 10-day total to $74 million.

        Like Mike, an NBA basketball fantasy starring teen rapper Bow Wow, opened solidly at No. 3 with $13.1 million from Friday to Sunday. The movie has taken in $20.1 million since premiering Wednesday.

        The weekend's other new wide release, The Powerpuff Girls Movie, debuted a distant No. 9 with a weak $3.6 million for the weekend and $6.1 million since its Wednesday opening.

        Distributor Sony, which is on a box-office tear, had both the No. 1 and No. 2 films, plus Spider-Man, which grossed $2.2 million over the weekend to inch past $400 million.

        “We see it as proof that all of them are working and there's room for all these films to do well,” said Jeff Blake, Sony's head of distribution and marketing.

        Spider-Man remains No. 5 on the all-time box-office charts, becoming only the third movie, after Titanic and Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, to top $400 million in its initial release.

        Men in Black II faced tougher competition than the original, which opened against a much weaker slate of new films and holdovers. Strong business for Mr. Deeds, Like Mike, Lilo & Stitch, Minority Report and other movies likely siphoned some business.

        “You never can duplicate circumstances perfectly,” Blake said. “While it's more money this time maybe it is less tickets, but no doubt, there's so many more pictures and so much more competition today.”

        Sony films accounted for 50 percent of the total weekend box office, and the studio expects to top $1 billion for the year by Thursday, hitting that mark in record time. In 1997, when the studio took in a record $1.26 billion, Sony's total did not reach $1 billion until Labor Day.

        “Most studios don't make that much for a full year, so that's quite an accomplishment,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

        Yet to come for Sony this month is Stuart Little 2. The studio's lineup before year's end includes Vin Diesel's XXX, Dana Carvey's The Master of Disguise, Eddie Murphy's I Spy, Jennifer Lopez's Chambermaid and the animated Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights.

        The top 10 films (with dollars in millions): 1. Men in Black II, $54; 2. Mr. Deeds, $18.8; 3. Like Mike, $13.1; 4. Lilo & Stitch, $12.7; 5. Minority Report, $12.4; 6. The Bourne Identity, $9.1; 7. Scooby-Doo, $7; 8. The Sum of All Fears, $3.8; 9. The Powerpuff Girls Movie, $3.6; 10. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, $2.9.


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