The Eddie Murphy sequel could take the top spot from the Angelina Jolie action flick

By Lori Reese
June 22, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Lara Croft took down John Travolta and ”Swordfish” last weekend, but is she superheroine enough to fend off Eddie Murphy’s chatty mammals? Both ”Tomb Raider,” last week’s No. 1 movie, and ”Dr. Dolittle 2,” the sequel to the 1998 comedy smash, are likely earn as much as $30 million, making it a tight race for the top spot on the box office chart.

Analysts are at odds over how much momentum ”Tomb Raider” can retain after its spectacular $47.7 million debut. Gitesh Pandya, editor of, expects the video game adaptation to lose just over 35 percent of its audience (for a $30 million weekend take). ”That’s the typical drop off for a movie with a built-in audience, whether it’s a comic book, a sequel, or a video game,” Pandya says. ”The fans always come out the first weekend.” Robert Bucksbaum of box office tracking firm Reel Source says bad word of mouth about ”Tomb Raider”’s failure to match its prerelease hype could cost the movie half of its audience, leaving it with only a $24 million take.

”Dolittle 2” could likewise draw a herd of fans of the original $144 million grossing comedy. ”Dolittle definitely has a chance at No. 1,” says Pandya, who foresees a $28 to $30 million opening. ”The first movie played broadly: Murphy drew teens as well as the family crowd. A lot of the same people will be coming out this weekend.” Bucksbaum disagrees, predicting only about $22 to $24 million. The reason? He says prerelease surveys indicate that older kids are not as enamored of the sequel’s plot — in which Murphy tries to breed a pair of inhibited talking bears — as they were with the first. ”Our projections were initially higher. But the more they show about the movie in the trailers, the less people say they want to see it. The audience is tracking younger and younger.”

Another newcomer, the car-racing thriller ”The Fast and the Furious” should cross the finish line at No. 3 with $20 million. Though ”Fast” enters the market without the fanfare of a blockbuster like ”Tomb Raider,” analysts think the action-heavy flick starring Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, and Paul Walke will be a big winner among young adults. ”Great special effects, hard-core action, beautiful chicks, what more could you ask for? It’s ‘Point Break’ on wheels, ” says Bucksbaum, referring to the 1991 Keanu Reeves hit. ”The movie could gross as much as $65 million overall — an incredible coup in the midst of all these blockbusters.”

Disney’s animated adventure ”Atlantis: The Lost Empire” should finish at No. 4 with about $14 million, while ‘Shrek’ will fall to No. 5, adding another $10 million to its $200 million haul. ”Nobody thought ‘Shrek’ would stay in the top five this long, ” says Bucksbaum, who believes the comedy could surpass the $312.9 million grossed by 1994’s ”The Lion King” to become the top earning animated movie of all time.

Finally, look out for the indie thriller ”Sexy Beast,” which expands from nine theaters in New York and L.A. to 60 venues nationwide. Though the British made movie is unlikely to break any fiscal records — or even enter the top five anytime soon — analysts say Academy Award winner Ben Kingsley’s chilling portrayal of a sinister thug is generating Oscar buzz that could keep ”Beast” earning for months to come. ”This guy is only about 140 pounds but he makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look like a wimp,” says Bucksbaum. ”I mean, he’s Gandhi for Chrissakes!” Shows what hunger strikes can do to a guy.

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