The John Travolta cyberthriller snags the No. 1 spot, while ''Pearl Harbor'' sinks to No. 3

By Lori Reese
June 12, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
Swordfish: Andrew Cooper

American audiences revealed their appetite for ”Swordfish” this weekend, as the R-rated cyberthriller topped the box office with an estimated $18.4 million. Industry watchers had expected poor returns for the action movie, which stars Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry of ”X-Men,” in part because of the high profile failure of their costar John Travolta’s last action flick, ”Battlefield Earth.” Gitesh Pandya of credits ”Swordfish”’s success to a marketing campaign that downplayed Travolta and emphasized the involvement of ”Matrix” producer Joel Silver, as well as the media attention surrounding Berry’s controversial onscreen nudity. ”People loved ‘The Matrix,”’ Pandya says. ”And any guy with $10 to spend on a movie is going to be thinking about those stories about Berry. I don’t know, but someone once told me that sex sells.”

Ogres sell, too, as evidenced by the animated ”Shrek,” which held on to the No. 2 spot for a second weekend with a $17.1 million take. ”Pearl Harbor” sank from first to third place with $14.9 million, while the David Duchovny/ Orlando Jones extraterrestrial comedy debuted with a lower than expected $13.2 million. Rob Schneider’s ”Animal,” which costars Survivor Colleen Haskell, rounded out the top five with $9.8 million. But that’s probably the last we’ll see of America’s Reality TV Sweetheart among the top box office earners: ”Tomb Raider”’s Lara Croft is likely to flay the competition when she blasts into movie theaters next weekend.

CRITICAL MASS Industry watchers may doubt Travolta’s marquee clout, but readers voted strongly in favor of his return to a role as an action pic baddie in ”Swordfish.” Nearly half of voters said that they saw the hacker crime saga for its stars and they weren’t disappointed. The film earned a solid B from readers, slightly higher than the critics’ average of B-. Moreover, 59 percent said that the Silver production was better than they had expected, and 41 percent indicated that they would recommend the movie to friends.

Readers were similarly satisfied with ”Evolution.” The comedy from ”Ghostbusters”’ director Ivan Reitman earned a B from voters, which was right on par with the critics’ average of B. A significant 41 percent indicated that they saw the movie because they were eager to watch Duchovny and Jones take on obnoxious space monsters. In addition, 41 percent of voters said the sci-fi farce was better than they had expected and 43 percent said they would recommend the movie to friends. It could be awhile before Duchovny shakes off his association with aliens.

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