Box Office Face-off: Julia vs. Jurassic

Opening up against Universal's Jurassic Park 3 looks like a death wish for any film competition, but Sony is betting that box-office champ Julia Roberts can hold her own against the prehistoric predators.

America's Sweethearts, the summer offering from the pretty woman and Oscar winner, is being positioned as dino counterprogramming — both films open July 20.

"We think we're the big romantic comedy alternative for July," Sony Marketing and Distribution President Jeff Blake said to Variety Tuesday about Sweethearts, which co-stars John Cusack, Billy Crystal, and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Roberts' box-office stats include three $100 million-plus-grossing films in a row (Erin Brockovich, Notting Hill, and Runaway Bride) and a career total of eight films to pass that magic number. Both Notting Hill and Runaway Bride opened up against stiff competition (Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace and The Blair Witch Project, respectively) and performed well, Blake noted.

Still, the last installment of the dinosaurs-run-amok series, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, opened with a record-setting $92.7 million over the four-day 1997 Memorial Day weekend. Not even the highly anticipated Phantom Menace, which opened in 1999, could out-earn The Lost World on its first weekend in theaters.

Steven Spielberg did not direct the third Jurassic film — corralling the T-rexes this time around is Jumanji director Joe Johnston. The sequel stars Téa Leoni, William H. Macy, and Sam Neill.

Universal Distribution President Nikki Rocco says of Sony's Jurassic counterprogramming bid, "Good for them, and we're not worried."

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