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Summer Break May Do Lots for ‘Dolittle’

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

With a debut of $29 million, 20th Century Fox’s “Dr. Dolittle” is benefiting from the fact that school is out and the film provides an alternative to Disney’s “Mulan” for the young male audience.

Repeat business will be a key factor in cracking $100 million domestically as will the impact of “Armageddon” this week and the debut of “Small Soldiers” on July 10. Even if “Dolittle” makes only $90 million domestically, the film’s production and marketing costs will probably be covered, given star Eddie Murphy’s proven appeal overseas (where his “The Nutty Professor” grossed more than $100 million). Close to $70 million was spent on production and at least $30 million on marketing. “Dolittle” rolls out overseas at the end of July. The serious money, however, would be made when Fox starts selling “Dolittle” on video to consumers.

“Out of Sight,” which cost Universal around $45 million (with $10 million to star George Clooney), doesn’t have as high a level to reach as “Dolittle,” but its $12-million launch and the summer competition for adult-oriented films may force it to scrape together every nickel to at least break even. The wild card will be how the film performs overseas.

If it can at least duplicate its domestic performance, “Out of Sight” will jump up into the “moneymaker” category.

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