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Movies

No. 12 is on the way

Eleven summer movies join '$100 million' club

related videoSUMMER OF '99: THE TOP 10

Windows Media
28 K    80 K


U.S. gross box-office figures as of August 29, except for films marked with an asterisk -- those include the Labor Day weekend. Source: Internet Movie Database, Exhibitor Relations Company Inc. and ACNielsen EDI Inc.


QUICK VOTE

Of the summer's three top-grossing films, which is your favorite?

"Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace"
"Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me"
"The Sixth Sense"

    View Results

September 8, 1999
Web posted at: 5:11 p.m. EDT (2111 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- If you went to the movies this summer in the United States or Canada, you're partly responsible for helping to smash a box-office record. Filmgoers in those countries spent $2.9 billion dollars on tickets this season, compared to last year's record of $2.6 billion.

"There's this mood of total surprise with the summer performance this year," says Paul Degarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations. "'99 has become the highest-grossing summer ever."

Eleven films have vaulted to or past the $100-million mark so far, with "Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace" raking in $420 million alone. The "Austin Powers" sequel comes in second. Backers say they thought they'd do well at theaters, but not this well.

"We felt that the movie was even much stronger than the first movie," says Bob Freidman, New Line Cinema's president of marketing. "But you never can guess or bet on getting a $200-millon movie in this day and age."

Price of success need not be high

Bigger surprises include the low-hype "The Sixth Sense," which is cruising toward $200 million, and "The Blair Witch Project," which cost a reported $60,000 or so to make and has earned an estimated $133.5 million so far.

Bruce Beresford, director of "Driving Miss Daisy" (1989) and the upcoming "Double Jeopardy," says there's a lesson here. "I think some of the things like 'The Blair Witch Project' and other successful films on more modest budgets are at least making people think that maybe there are projects around where you don't have to simply load them up with special effects to make them work."

No surprise that "Star Wars Episode 1" took the top spot this summer

"Wild Wild West," starring Will Smith, spent between $105 million and $180 million on effects. Despite passing the $100-million mark, it's considered a dud. There was no monetary consolation for Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam" or "Muppets from Space." Both bombed. Other notable box-office misses include "Mystery Men," "Dudley Do-Right," "Detroit Rock City" and "The Astronaut's Wife."

But overall, business boomed. "The General's Daughter" and "Runaway Bride" packed in older filmgoers. "American Pie" and "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut" kept younger fans spending -- and some under-age would-be fans cooling their heels in the lobby. With some $99 million in box office receipts now, "American Pie" appears poised to become the 12th film introduced during the summer movie season to break the $100- million barrier.

"Despite the fact that ticket prices have gone up because of escalating costs at theaters," Friedman says, "more people are going to the theater and seeing this a great alternative to some other leisure activities."

CNN Entertainment News Correspondent Paul Vercammen and Reuters contributed to this report.


RELATED STORIES:
Jedis, brides, specters and spies add up to record movie summer
September 5, 1999
'Sixth Sense' wins box office race for fifth weekend
September 6, 1999
This 'Witch' boasting wicked marketing brew
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Summer of the big box-office gross (out)
July 8, 1999
What's on screen this summer -- besides 'Star Wars'
June 11, 1999
Review: Maybe, baby, you can resist 'Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me'
June 10, 1999
Review: 'Mummy' long on swash, short on buckle
date
Review: Roberts runs away with hearts in 'Runaway Bride'
July 29, 1999

RELATED SITES:
'American Pie' official site
'Austin Powers' official site
'The Blair Witch Project' official site
'Star Wars' official site
'Notting Hill' official site
'Wild, Wild West' official site
'Tarzan' official site
'Big Daddy' official site
'Runaway Bride' official site
'The General's Daughter' official site
'The Sixth Sense' official site
'The Mummy' official site
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