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‘Deep Impact’ Shoots to Top on Its First Weekend

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Will “Deep Impact” have one on the bottom lines of the studios behind it?

The comet disaster movie had a flashy opening weekend, topping the box-office take with a $41.15-million gross. But such big numbers make it easy to lose sight of the fact that movies generating impressive box-office results don’t necessarily end up in the black because they often don’t generate enough business to offset the huge costs needed to make and market them.

Nonetheless, unless it erodes more than 50% in its second weekend, the co-production between Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks SKG appears to have a shot at being the first film to turn a decent profit hit in Hollywood’s competitive summer season. The film would need to gross at least $250 million worldwide to break even.

Launched well before the heart of the summer movie season in the same way “Twister” (DreamWorks partner Steven Spielberg was a producer on both films) was two years ago, the tale of a comet on a collision course with Earth got an almost two-month jump on rival “Armageddon,” Walt Disney’s more expensive and higher profile tale about an wayward asteroid imperiling the planet.

“Deep Impact” edged out “Twister” as the 10th-highest grossing opening weekend of all time. Its $13,000 per screen average is also impressive for a film lacking a top box-office star.

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With an official budget of $80 million (some sources estimate the cost at more than $100 million), “Deep Impact” has 12 days to pack ‘em in before “Godzilla” from Sony Pictures stomps all over New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s fair city on more than 6,000 screens May 20. “Deep Impact” should have grossed as much as $70 million by then.

According to Paramount/DreamWorks, as well as their competitors, exit polls were strong enough to bode well for a solid second weekend for “Deep Impact,” and even a good Memorial Day showing. Buoyed by first weekend totals, Paramount also can be counted on to continue its advertising barrage.

With the studios keeping a higher 70% of the take in the first and second weekends a film is released, “Deep Impact” should recoup at least its domestic marketing costs by Memorial Day. And even with “Godzilla” stepping on its toes, the film can probably count on ending its domestic theatrical run with a gross of more than $100 million.

Significantly, “Deep Impact” will capitalize on its U.S. opening weekend momentum by starting its overseas runs early on May 14 and 15 in parts of Europe, again to get a jump on the competition.

“Deep Impact’s” foreign box-office take will undoubtedly equal (and probably exceed) the U.S. totals because disaster movies play well overseas, especially after they open strong domestically. The revenue from foreign showings could cover the costs of the special effects-loaded movie. And then there’s revenue from video, as well as the sale of domestic and foreign television rights.

Since “Deep Impact” has no significant profit participants among its talent, revenue will flow back to Paramount and DreamWorks, making it a fairly safe bet to end up in the black.


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