Time to hang our hopes on fall flicks

The summer's been a bust here in the Northeast. Too many cloudy and cool days to suit most of us.

That could describe this summer's movie offerings, too: cool and gray - when studios were hoping for plenty of sizzle and dazzle. No highly anticipated film like "Star Wars - The Phantom Menace" or sleeper hits like "The Sixth Sense" or "The Blair Witch Project" created audience buzz and became a "must see" movie.

Instead, a pack of contenders did brisk but not spectacular business, led by "Mission: Impossible 2," the only film so far to crack $200 million domestically ($213 million). (The final figures won't be tallied until after this Labor Day weekend.)

"Gladiator," which was actually released in the spring but showed staying power well into the summer, holds the No. 2 spot ($182 million), followed by "The Perfect Storm" ($174 million), "X-Men" ($149 million), and "Scary Movie" ($147 million).

In all, the summer box office will be off about 5 percent from last year, the first decline from a previous year since 1991, the industry magazine Variety predicts. When higher ticket prices are factored in, the drop in the number of tickets sold is even greater.

Traditionally, once summer is over, studios hold back their next round of big-budget spectaculars for the winter holidays. This often gives more thoughtful, smaller-budget pictures a chance to shine. Last year, for example, the Oscar-winner for Best Picture, "American Beauty," opened in September.

Will audiences unearth any screen gems this fall? Monitor movie critic David Sterritt will preview the contenders next week. Come on back for a look.

*Write us at entertainment@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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