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Movies 06/09/2001

Who was hot, who was not

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Every movie has its winners and losers, and so does every summer movie season. Some of the good and not so good from 2001:

Winners

Shrek. It took something big to steal moviegoers' attention from the much-hyped Pearl Harbor, and this big green monster with no social skills was huge. The computer-animated comedy from DreamWorks' PDI division was such a force that one competitor called it "a Shrekking ball."

Sequels. Critics may carp, but audiences love them. "The sequels all performed tremendously," says Dan Marks, an analyst with ACNielsen EDI, a box office tracking firm. "The Mummy Returns and Rush Hour 2 should be singled out because they made even more than the originals, which is rare." Mummy has taken in more than $201 million, while the original topped out at $155.3 million; RH2 outdid the first one $199 million (so far) to $141.2 million.

Universal Pictures. Already on a hot streak at summer's start, the studio kept the heat on with big sequels. (In addition to Mummy and American Pie 2, it brought back the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park 3). Universal also had one of the season's biggest surprise hits, The Fast and the Furious.

Reese Witherspoon, Vin Diesel, Chris Tucker, Angelina Jolie. "Little-known directors and B-list stars were the heroes," says Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. "No Tom Cruise movie, no Jim Carrey movie, no Mel Gibson movie, no Tom Hanks movie, and still we have a revenue record." Strong concepts and market- ing rendered these icons superfluous, he says. Adds Daniel Garris, an analyst with boxofficereport.com: "Of the 11 summer films that have crossed or appear to be on pace for the $100 million mark, nine boasted up-and-coming stars." The other two starred

Eddie Murphy. Dr. Dolittle 2 was the only star vehicle this summer to pass the $100 million blockbuster mark. Meanwhile, Shrek, while not a Murphy vehicle, earned the actor/comedian some of the best reviews of his career for the voice of a chatty donkey.

Opening weekends. "There were three films with opening weekends over $65 million," says Dergarabedian. "The Mummy Returns with $68.1, Planet of the Apes with $68.5 and Rush Hour 2 with $67.4. It's astonishing to have three films perform at this level." Last summer, no films opened with more than $60 million, and in summer 1999, Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace was the only one.

Losers

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. This virtually photo-real work of computer animation was trumpeted as the death knell for movies starring real humans. Instead, it performed so poorly (grossing just $32 million) that it might have sounded the death knell for photo-real works of computer animation.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence. The science-fiction story demonstrated what many suspected: Spielberg and Kubrick don't mix. "It was supposed to be one of the biggest movies of the summer, and it just isn't there," Marks says. "But I hazard to say that if a $78 million movie is your biggest disappointment, that's no so bad." Garris says it is. "I was expecting A.I. to cross the $200 million mark. Its weekend drops of 50% to 60% surprised me a lot more than its opening weekend take."

Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Of the most recent seven animated Disney films, Atlantis was the most poorly received. Its $82.4 million take makes the studio's previous underachiever — 1997's Hercules, which grossed $99 million — look a little more robust. Though Marks says: "Any Disney animated film that doesn't click at over the $100 million mark is a disappointment."

Columbia Pictures. Of the major studios, Sony's film company came in seventh out of seven. "Their biggest film was America's Sweethearts, and some people might even say that was a disappointment," Marks says. (Just over $90 million isn't great for a Julia Roberts film.) "Final Fantasy made you say, 'Oh, my God!' and Ghosts of Mars (which has grossed $7.3 million) was a disaster."






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