Analysts expect the WWII epic to trounce Nicole Kidman's musical debut

By Lori Reese
June 01, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Memorial Day’s mighty box office moneymakers — ”Pearl Harbor” (which debuted at No. 1 with $75.2 million) and ”Shrek” ($42.5 million) — should hang on to the top two spots on the movie chart this weekend, despite competition from three newcomers: the Rob Schneider comedy ”Animal” (Colleen Haskell of TV’s ”Survivor” makes her big screen debut); the Martin Lawrence / Danny DeVito crime spoof, ”What’s the Worst That Could Happen?”; and the buzzed about Nicole Kidman / Ewan McGregor musical ”Moulin Rouge,” which moves into wide release.

Momentum from ”Harbor”’s bang-up debut ensures that it will remain the No. 1 film this weekend, even though its earnings will likely drop nearly 60 percent to some $32 million. ”It’s a patriotic movie, so its big window was really Memorial Day weekend,” says Robert Bucksbaum of box office tracking firm Reel Source. ”When you’re that high, there’s only one place to go — and that’s down.” Likewise, the ogre with an attitude, ”Shrek,” could lose nearly half of its audience, landing at No. 2 with about $22 million.

Meanwhile, ”Moulin” (starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor) should finish at No. 3 with $13 to $16 million, in part because of the zealous word of mouth that has spread from New York and L.A., where it opened May 18. What’s more, the movie’s Top 10 soundtrack — featuring the Christina Aguilera-powered ”Lady Marmalade” — has made young people aware of the arty flick. ”Whether or not this is the type of movie that people who like ‘Marmalade’ would usually want to see doesn’t matter,” says Paul Dergarabedian of tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. ”Younger people will see a movie because of a song.” Still, analysts caution that the offbeat musical faces a huge obstacle with the multiplex crowd. ”It’s a really tough sell because mainstream audiences just don’t like seeing stars break into song,” says Bucksbaum.

Lawrence’s ”Worst” should land in the No. 4 spot with $15 million, while the raunchy ”Animal” could earn $13 million for No. 5. Both flicks boast significant star power (Lawrence’s ”Big Momma’s House” opened with $26.7 million last summer; ”Survivor”’s Haskell has inspired, um, numerous websites), but analysts say neither movie has generated the riotous buzz of comic competitor ”Shrek.” ”’Worst”’s trailers just aren’t that funny,” says Gitesh Pandya of ”Haskell is adorable, but I think this could be the beginning and the end of her acting career,” adds Bucksbaum. So much for that classic neo-Hollywood success story: She was discovered while being filmed 24 / 7 on a deserted island.

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