Maybe the abilities of box office trackers haven’t evolved yet to the precognitive prowess displayed by the crime-preventing psychics in 20th Century Fox’s ”Minority Report.” Or maybe moviegoers mistook Disney’s ”Lilo & Stitch,” a film about an ugly-but-cuddly alien who befriends a lonely child from a broken family, for the latest Spielberg movie. Either way, this weekend’s two big new movies finished so close that trackers from both Fox and Disney predicted on Sunday that their movie would finish on top.
Since the box office numbers released to the press late Sunday derive from studio estimates based on sales from Friday and Saturday, the true tallies won’t be known until Monday, when Sunday’s sales are in. So Fox’s claim of a $36.9 million victory for the Tom Cruise-Steven Spielberg collaboration comes with a caveat. ”It’s really too close to call,” Fox distribution chief Bruce Snyder told Variety. “I’m not claiming No. 1. I’m not claiming anything. I’d call it a tie,” he told the Associated Press. ”Could I be wrong? You bet.”
Disney, which claimed $35.8 million for ”Lilo,” believes Fox overestimated. ”We truly believe we are No. 1,” Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane told Variety. ”We’re both public companies, and I’m confident the estimates will be corrected Monday morning.”
Spielberg himself told AP a few weeks ago that Hollywood should emulate other countries, where box office victories are determined by the number of tickets sold, not the total take. ”I really wish we could forget about these obsessions with box office, and rather than printing how much money the movie earns in current dollars, it would be much more valid a measurement to do what they do in France, which is to count heads,” he said. But by the head-count measure, ”Lilo” would be the clear victor, since much of its take came from reduced-price tickets sold to kids.
At least the makers of both films can take comfort knowing they opened well above this weekend’s third new entry, gender-bending basketball comedy ”Juwanna Mann,” which dragged its way into seventh place, below even the limping ”Windtalkers,” to open at $6 million. ”Minority” and ”Lilo” also outdistanced the returning entries that made up the rest of the top five. Third-place ”Scooby-Doo” scarfed up $24.4 million, a whopping 55 percent drop from its opening last week. (Ruh-roh.) At No. 4 and No. 5 were Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s dueling spy thrillers, with Damon’s ”The Bourne Identity” taking in $14.8 million and Affleck’s ”The Sum of All Fears” scaring up $7.9 million.