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Summer of '99 a hot one

September 7, 1999

According to estimates compiled by Variety magazine, the "summer of '99" appears to be the hottest one ever. For the 17-week span ending this Monday, box office receipts were just shy of eclipsing the $3.1 billion mark which is 19% higher than the record set one year ago.

A record 10 films grossed more than $100 million (one more than in 1997) and admissions rose from 533 million to 610 million entries; a 14% increase. Forty-five films - four fewer than in 1998 - were put into wide release and had an average 11% boost to $60.3 million domestic per title.

The big studio winner was narrowed down to Buena Vista and Fox for the summer market share crown. Estimated B.O. gives Fox a slight edge of $522.7 to Disney's $519.9.

Fox's Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace, the first major release of summer, grossed $421.3 million at the close of Labor Day weekend. New Line's Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was second with $205.1 million.

Late season arrivals of The Sixth Sense, Paramount's Runaway Bride and Artisan's The Blair Witch Project went a long way to surprise both critic and studio head alike.

Biggest notable miss was The Wild Wild West grossing $111.8 million domestically, though significantly below commercial expectations. Other notable studio misses included The 13th Warrior from Disney, Universal's Mystery Men and Dudley Do-Right, New Line's The Astronaut's Wife and Sony's Muppets from Space.

Though normally geared to the "younger audience," this summer's cast list included more adult stars such as Julia Roberts, John Travolta, Tom Cruise, Bruce Willis and Hugh Grant. The twenty-something crowd still made their presence known by making "Blair Witch," Sony's Big Daddy with Adam Sandler and Universal's American Pie into major successes and gave hit status to DreamWorks' The Haunting, Warner Bros.' Deep Blue Sea and Paramount's "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut." Disney's contribution to the summer included two major successes: Tarzan and Inspector Gadget.

As for the other studios: Both Fox and Buena Vista captured roughly 17% of the marketplace with Universal grabbing 13.5% of the market share. Sony, New Line, Artisan, DreamWorks and MGM followed.

THIRD MILLENNIUM entertainment

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