Box Office: Jurassic Park III Roars to No. 1

July 22, 2001 -- America may consider Julia Roberts its sweetheart, but the country's true love affair continues to be with man-eating dinos. Universal unveiled the third film of its monster dinosaur franchise, Jurassic Park III, on Wednesday to T-rex-sized single-day sales of $19 million and a five-day total of $80.9 million.

The film, which pits Sam Neill, Téa Leoni, and William H. Macy against the computer-generated beasties, easily devoured the box office this weekend by drumming up an estimated $50.3 million to America's Sweetheart's second-placing $31 million.

Lost World Still ReignsWhile Universal is on an amazing box-office roll with three consecutive $40 million-plus openings this summer (The Mummy Returns and The Fast and the Furious also had monster debuts), the weekend sales for JPIII were far short of the record-holding three-day numbers of the second Jurassic film.

Jurassic Park opened in June 1993 with $50.1 million and was passed up by The Lost World: Jurassic Park's May 1997 opening of $72.1 million, a three-day box-office record that still stands, despite onslaughts from Stars Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace ($64.8 million) and this year's The Mummy Returns ($68.1 million).

JPIII's debut now ranks as the fourth-biggest July opener, behind X-Men, Men in Black, and Independence Day. Steven Spielberg directed the first two Jurassic films, but he handed over directing reins this time out to Jumanji helmer Joe Johnston.

Sweethearts' Successful CounterprogrammingThe showbiz comedy America's Sweethearts, which stars Julia Roberts and tells the tale of a feuding movie star couple (John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones) forced to reteam for their career, performed well as pteronadon counterprogramming. In 1999, the Roberts vehicle Notting Hill was similarly positioned as a cinematic alternative to Phantom Menace and captured the same No. 2 slot.

Reviews of Sweethearts, which also stars Billy Crystal and Seth Green, have been less than kind. It marks Revolution Studios founder Joe Roth's return to the director's chair after a long absence.

Rounding out the top five were last week's top three films, Legally Blonde, The Score, and Cats & Dogs, which slipped two places each.

After two weeks, the fluffy comedy Blonde has earned $43.4 million and the heist film The Score has pocketed $37.1 million. Family comedy Cats & Dogs has a three-week total of $72.4 million.

The Top 10 films for July 20-22, 2001:Jurassic Park III, $50.3 millionAmerica's Sweethearts, $31 millionLegally Blonde, $11 millionThe Score, $10.8 millionCats & Dogs, $6.8 millionThe Fast and the Furious, $5.3 millionScary Movie 2, $4.4 millionDr. Dolittle 2, $4.3 millionFinal Fantasy, $3.5 millionKiss of the Dragon, $2.9 million

Final figures will be released Monday.