July 4, 2005

Cruise, Spielberg ‘War’ wins with movie fans

By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Tom Cruise's alien-invasionthriller "War of the Worlds" was the top movie around the worldlast weekend, erasing speculation that the star's antics inrecent months could hurt its prospects at the box office.

In North America, the Steven Spielberg-directed film hasearned $113.3 million for the six days since its Wednesdayrelease, distributor Paramount Pictures said on Monday.

Its four-day sum of $77.6 million, from Friday to Monday,ranks as the second-best for a July 4 holiday weekend, behind"Spider-Man 2," which grossed $116 million in the same periodlast year. After six days, "Spider-Man 2" was at $180 million.

Not surprisingly, overall sales for the weekend were lowerthan those for the year-ago period, which set a record for theJuly 4 holiday. Ticket sales in North America have now fallenfor 19 consecutive weekends, the longest losing streak in twodecades, thanks to such factors as a dearth of stimulatingfare, higher ticket prices, and competition from DVDs.

The $135 million film has already earned more than thetotals of Cruise's last two films, "Collateral" and "The LastSamurai," and of Spielberg's most recent effort "The Terminal."They previously worked together on 2002's "Minority Report,"which ended up with $132 million.

The foreign total stands at $102.5 million for the fivedays through Sunday, highlighted by $15.7 million in Britain --records for both Cruise and Spielberg; $15.1 million in Japan;and $7.8 million in Spain. In both Russia ($5.2 million) andTaiwan ($4.2 million), it ranked as the best opening for aforeign film.


The numbers appear to indicate that 43-year-old Cruise'sunorthodox publicity campaign did not put off the fans. Afterfiring his longtime publicist, who kept him on a tight leash,the normally strait-laced actor has been much more vocal abouthis Scientology beliefs. His very public romance with fianc©eKatie Holmes, highlighted by a couch-jumping declaration oflove for the young actress on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," alsoraised some eyebrows.

But, according to Paramount vice-chairman Rob Friedman,they are "totally separate issues." He said Cruise supportedthe movie "in full-force" and that his fan base has expanded.

Paramount, a unit of Viacom Inc., partnered on the projectwith closely held DreamWorks SKG, of which Spielberg is afounding partner.

"Batman Begins," the champion for the last two weeks,slipped to No. 2 in North America with a four-day sum of $18.7million, taking its total to $154.1 million. The superheromovie, starring Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader and Holmesas his love interest, was released by Warner Bros. Pictures, aunit of Time Warner Inc.

"Mr. & Mrs. Smith," a thriller starring two other tabloidfavorites, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, held steady at No. 3with $12.7 million in its fourth week. The 20th Century Foxrelease has earned $146.1 million to date.

The top-10 contained one other new release, Fox's MartinLawrence basketball comedy "Rebound," which opened at No. 7with a disappointing $6 million. The studio had hoped it wouldreach $10 million. Fox is a unit of News Corp.