Weekend Forecast
for June 21-23, 2002

By Reagen Sulewski

Obi-Wan Kenobi hates it when I do this.

This weekend is one that both casual filmgoers and cineasts having been looking forward to for many weeks now, a date marked on the calendar and in their hearts and minds. I'm speaking, of course, of the release of Juwanna Mann, so we don't have to see those damn commercials ever again! Oh yes, and there's a Spielberg and Disney movie out there, too. All kidding aside, this looks to be one of the best summer weekends in some time.

The biggest director in the world joins up with (probably) the biggest star in the world for Minority Report, Steven Spielberg's second straight foray into the sci-fi world, after last summer's A.I. (an unfairly maligned film). This time, they've avoided the soft touch of the campaign for that film and are selling it as the big action blockbuster it is. Probably one of my favorite things for science-fiction films to do is to create a world with specific rules and explore the consequences of those rules. Movies like Twelve Monkeys and The Matrix come to mind here; both are superior entertainment in their own ways. Minority Report appears to be just such a picture, examining the prospect of a world where criminals are arrested before they can commit their crimes (apparently there's been some heavy Constitutional reforms by 2054). In Hollywood lingo, you could call it The Fugitive-meets-Blade Runner, a description that is all the more appropriate since both Blade Runner and Minority Report are based on stories written by the late Phillip K. Dick. In any case, this appears to be the return of the Dazzling Set-Piece Spielberg, with a tantalizing scene involving a blindfolded Cruise and mechanical spiders featuring prominently in ads and receiving unanimous praise from critics. Audiences eager to return Spielberg to the status of "The People's Director" should get exactly what they wish for from this film.

For an actor that really made his name in the '80s as a pretty boy action star, Tom Cruise has definitely shied away from that genre for a long time, with the exception of the Mission: Impossible franchise. He spent the 1990s apprenticing with any big-name director he could, from Ron Howard to Stanley Kubrick, PT Anderson to Cameron Crowe. His teaming up with Steven Spielberg for a sci-fi action project is probably the formula for box-office success. Mission: Impossible 2 earned $57 million on Memorial Day weekend back in 2000, which sets a convenient baseline for predictions; it may not have the same name brand, but the presence of Spielberg and two years of a changing marketplace more than make up for it. Expect this film to easily capture the weekly crown and finish the job that Scooby-Doo failed to do last weekend; break the June record. I expect an opening weekend tally of approximately $66 million.

Ever since Toy Story appeared on the scene in 1995 to change the face of animated film, traditional cel animation has had to play catch-up. Tarzan, in 1999, was the last of this kind to cross the $100 million mark with even the Mighty Disney having to deal with disappointments like Atlantis and The Emperor's New Groove (shameless promotion alert: rent this movie. It's the funniest Warner Bros. cartoon not made by them). Lilo and Stitch is the best contender in several years with the chance to break this streak of futility. Because it's one of the rare Disney cartoons based on an original concept (although I've taken to calling it "Disney's Gremlins" and it also bears more than a slight resemblance, theme-wise, to The Iron Giant), they've had to go overtime selling it. They couldn't have had a better start, as their early teasers mocking the recent Disney classics were a terrific way of introducing the concept (and almost any trailer can be improved by the addition of Back in Black).

Coincidentally or not, this also has something of a sci-fi angle to it, although I don't think that will much matter, at least as far as any potential competition between this and Minority Report goes. The audiences they're chasing after are separated not only by age but number; Lilo and Stitch makes an obvious family choice and will make up part of the difference in volume. It's a great-looking style of animation as well, although that didn't help the excellently-styled Atlantis. What makes this different is the comedy combined with the usual family themes; Disney's rarely made an out-and-out comedy, and their most recent success of this nature was Aladdin, which collected over $200 million. I don't know if this has quite the ability to surpass this figure without a free-associating Robin Williams, but a number close to this figure would not surprise me. Lilo and Stitch will definitely challenge the eight-year-old mark of The Lion King as Disney's highest in-house opening. This figure should fall, with a weekend figure of about $44 million.

Unlikely to break any records except for walkouts, Juwanna Mann is the odd, er, man out this weekend. Similar in scope, yet frighteningly worse-looking, than the recent Sorority Boys, there's not a single positive thing I can think to say about this cross-dressing basketball film. Well, OK, it's only 91 minutes long, so it's over fast. And I'm sure it'll inspire a hilarious review from Roger Ebert. Actually, on further review, it may actually have set one record already; it was filmed all the way back in July of 2000, which is the longest time for a film to be in the can that I can recall. Clearly, this is not a film that was begging for release (weren't they even taking a chance that the WNBA wouldn't be around by this time?). It will probably be lucky to get away with $3 million on the weekend, with better hope for video.

On to the matter of returning films; you know, people, if you don't listen to me, I won't be held responsible when things like The Wonder Twins Movie come out. Warner Bros. is going to look back and say, "Well, Scooby-Doo made $54 million, let's give it a go", and you'll have no one to blame but yourselves. You can still salvage something here; a 50% drop goes a long, long way in the fight against crap. After reporting a $56 million weekend for the Scooby Gang and a June record, they had to back down to a $54 million figure that did not beat the mark set by Austin Powers 2. The first figure is always what people remember, of course, so it gives the film just that little positive boost. Wouldn't 500k have done the same trick? In any case, it's been under-whelming during these first weekdays and I don't expect it to challenge for higher than third spot. It has enough of a cushion that falling to fourth isn't a possibility, even with the positive reaction to The Bourne Identity. Much like the recent thriller The Sum of All Fears, this spy thriller has an excellent chance of making an extended run in theaters. An overall A- CinemaScore rating makes a weekend drop as small as 30% possible. This would put it well on the way towards the planned sequels. Last week's Windtalkers, while not likely to fall as steeply as Scooby-Doo, is unlikely to recover to be an earner for MGM. It's even likely to lose its spot in the weekend rankings to The Sum of All Fears, which had an excellent showing last weekend, dropping only 30%. It'll inch very close to the $100 million mark, probably coming within $2 million and passing the century total during the next week. Spider-Man is now in a race to reach the $400 million mark, with a pace that now has it occurring on the tenth weekend, the same as the current record-holder for this figure, Titanic. A matter of days will settle this battle. After a stumble in its second week, Star Wars Episode II is back on pace for $300 million; it will take a few weeks longer than originally thought, though, and it's unlikely to get too much beyond that. This is the stated figure from George Lucas about his break-even point for the movie; of course, there's worldwide money, TV money and merchandising. There'll be no macaroni and cheese in the Lucas household tonight.

Forecast: Weekend of June 21-23, 2002
Estimated Gross ($)
Minority Report
Lilo and Stitch
The Bourne Identity
The Sum of All Fears
Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron