The Ben Affleck war epic earns $75.1 million -- the second best Memorial Day debut ever

By Lori Reese
Updated May 30, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, ...
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”Pearl Harbor” failed to blast its way into Memorial Day weekend record books, but the dizzyingly hyped World War II saga is hardly a bomb. The Ben Affleck – Kate Beckinsale film from producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay topped the box office with $75.1 million over the four day weekend — the second best Memorial Day opening ever (”Jurassic Park: The Lost World” earned $90.7 million in 1997).

Analysts had predicted that the $135 million budgeted flick would score close to $100 million. But most agree that the epic fell short not because of a lack of audience interest but because its near three hour length limited the number of times it could be shown in theaters each day. ”Bruckheimer and Bay really know how to make a popular action movie,” says Gitesha Pandya of, who compares ”Harbor”’s plot to that of ”Titanic” — the top grossing movie of all time. ”’Titanic’ was about the same length as ‘Harbor,”’ he points out. ”It didn’t break any opening weekend records either for the same reason.”

The animated satire ”Shrek,” meanwhile, has had no trouble surpassing observers’ expectations. The tale of a lovelorn ogre scored $54.2 million (No. 2), bringing its total mean green to $110.7 million after just 10 days in theaters. ”The Mummy Returns” (No. 3; $19.7 million) likewise has gobbled an impressive $170 million since its May 4 debut. The rock & roll medieval sendup, ”A Knight’s Tale” (No. 4), scored $9.3 million, while the Jennifer Lopez romantic thriller ”Angel Eyes” rounded out the top five with $6.3 million.

CRITICAL MASS Though readers were hardly blown away by ”Pearl Harbor,” the big budget popcorn flick still managed to exceed most voters’ expectations. Readers gave it a solid B — slightly higher than the critics’ overall score of B- — and 52 percent said that its combo of guns, bombs, and romance was more fun than they had anticipated. While more than half indicated that they saw the movie because of its flashy trailers, a healthy 62 percent said they’d be willing to advertise the movie themselves by recommending it to friends.

Meanwhile, readers are even more excited about this summer’s ‘toon blockbuster, ”Shrek.” What does this animated movie have that others don’t? For starters, voters of ALL ages gave the ugly green ogre and Co. an A-, and 82 percent said that they would recommend the movie to friends. Moreover, nearly a third of readers said that they decided to see the film not because of the kids but because of the high praise it got from critics. Funny, that didn’t seem to help the last ”Pokémon.”

A Knight's Tale

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  • PG-13
  • 132 minutes
  • Brian Helgeland