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'Armageddon' No.1 at Box Office
The Associated Press
July 6, 1998.
(Filed at 2:13am EST)

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Fireworks and barbecues cut into the box office impact of ``Armageddon.''

Disney's most expensive movie ever, about a Texas-sized asteroid headed for Earth, opened with $34.8 million over the holiday weekend, short of the $41.2 million debut of ``Deep Impact'' earlier this year, according to preliminary numbers Sunday.

``It looks like the release of `Deep Impact' earlier this summer had more of an effect on the results of `Armageddon' than was originally anticipated,'' said movie industry analyst David Davis, who characterized the film's opening as a ``triple'' rather than a ``home run.''

Although the special-effects laden ``Armageddon'' had the Fourth of July weekend to itself, it also suffered because the holiday fell this year on a Saturday, usually the biggest day for movie-going, and many people's attentions were focused away from the theaters.

Bruce Willis leads the ``Armageddon'' cast, which also includes Liv Tyler and Ben Affleck. The movie received almost universally bad reviews.

The movie's early performance kept to this summer's trend: Several movies doing healthy, $100 million-plus business, propelling the season toward its best total ever, but no movie breaking the $200 million mark.

So far, three films released this year have grossed more than $100 million -- ``Deep Impact'' ($137.2 million), ``Godzilla'' ($134 million), and ``The Truman Show'' ($109.5 million) -- and others are on their way, including ``Armageddon,'' the weekend's No. 2, ``Dr. Dolittle,'' which grossed $19.8 million for a $65 million total to date, and No. 3 ``Mulan'' with $11.6 million for the weekend, $77.1 million total.

The upcoming ``Small Soldiers'' and ``Lethal Weapon 4'' also are seen as leading candidates to break $100 million.

``You would definitely rather have more pictures doing $100 million in the summer than one picture doing $300 million,'' said Tom Sherak, distribution head at 20th Century Fox, which has the hit ``Dr. Dolittle,'' the near-hit ``The X-Files'' and the disappointing ``Bulworth.'' ``It's much better for the industry for them to be spread around.''

As expected, ``Armageddon'' drew mostly younger males. The audience was 54 percent male and 46 percent female, with 65 percent of those males under the age of 35, according to Disney, raising questions about the movie's staying power. The post-''Titanic'' conventional wisdom is that a movie must now appeal to both males and females to hit blockbuster status.

Meanwhile, showing incredible staying power is ``Gone With the Wind.'' A restored version of the 1939 classic grossed $820,000 in its second week of re-release, just missing the Top 10.

Here are estimated grosses for the top movies at North American theaters for Friday through Sunday as compiled by Exhibitor Relations. Final figures were expected today:

1. ``Armageddon,'' $34.8 million.
2. ``Dr. Dolittle,'' $19.8 million.
3. ``Mulan,'' $11.6 million.
4. ``Out of Sight,'' $6.5 million.
5. ``The X-Files,'' $6.4 million.
6. ``The Truman Show,'' $5.7 million.
7. ``Six Days, Seven Nights,'' $5.4 million.
8. ``A Perfect Murder,'' $3.3 million.
9. ``Hope Floats,'' $1.6 million.
10. ``The Horse Whisperer,'' $1.4 million.