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‘Con Air’ Soars Above the Dinosaurs

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Audiences turned a deaf ear to mixed reviews of producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Con Air” and gave it a strong opening weekend estimated at $25.5 million, knocking blockbuster “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” from the top spot.

Bruckheimer said Sunday it was the film’s star, Nicolas Cage, as the killer with a heart, who pulled in the surprise audience: young women.

“We knew we had the young guys as fans and that the audience was diverse . . . from young ethnic to upscale, but young women? And under 25?” mused Bruckheimer. “Nic was slammed for his [Southern] accent, but in the end it worked. He saw his character as a cross between Elvis and Greg Allman . . .. Greg being the hair thing.”

The film is about an Army Ranger who returns home to his pregnant wife only to become embroiled up in a barroom brawl and wind up serving a seven-year prison sentence for justifiable homicide. Just as he’s released and heads home to his wife and a daughter he’s never met, he learns his flight is filled with the worst of criminals bound for the toughest prison of all--a destination they plan never to reach.

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The mayhem spawned by Cage and co-star John Malkovich certainly rained on “Lost World’s” parade, as the Universal blockbuster dropped 46% from last weekend, to an estimated $18.5 million. After grossing $92 million when it opened on Memorial Day weekend, “Lost World” business has dropped precipitously each week.

John Krier, head of the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations, said “Lost World” opened in nearly 6,000 theaters. “It showed to so many people in the first week, there were not that many to see it the next week,” Krier said. “What you’re seeing now is probably a lot of repeat business.”

Even rival Sony Pictures distribution chief Jeff Blake conceded “Lost World” would probably bring in at least $250 million domestically, which will put it among the top-grossing movies ever. “I wish I had a $250-million movie that drops 40% every week,” Blake said.

Coming in third was the romantic comedy “Addicted to Love” at about $3.8 million, while newcomer “Buddy” starring Rene Russo, fourth with a poor showing of $3.7 million. Blake said lackluster results of the Columbia Pictures release, billed as a family movie about a woman with a love for animals, in particular a gorilla named “Buddy,” is puzzling given the complaints studios constantly hear from parents about the lack of family movies out this summer. “Here’s one, and nobody came,” Blake said.

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Other results over the weekend: “Gone Fishin’ ” grossed an estimated $3.1 million for fifth; “Trial & Error” came in sixth with an estimated $2.7 million; “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery” seventh at about $2.4 million; “The Fifth Element” eighth at about $2.2 million; “Breakdown” ninth at about $1.87 million and “Liar Liar” 10th with an estimated $1.2 million. “Liar Liar” holds the record this year for the longest run on the top 10 list at 12 weeks, notes Krier.

Final box-office results will be released today.


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