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Entertainment - Hollywood Reporter - updated 2:22 AM ET Jul 20
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Friday July 20 02:22 AM EDT Roberts attacks the raptors

Roberts attacks the raptors

By Roger Cels

LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) --- Weekend fight card: Julia Rob-erts vs. the dinosaurs.

"America's Sweethearts," Rob-erts' latest starring vehicle opening wide today, and "Jurassic Park III," which debuted Wednesday to a staggering $19 million, are the major new movies in mass circulation this weekend. Las Vegas bookmakers would clearly make "Jurassic III" the favorite, but focusing only on the head-to-head contest during the Friday-Sunday span may well produce a closer decision from the judges.

The specter of lifelike velociraptors wreaking havoc in "Jurassic III" creates compelling cinema to be sure, as was evidenced in the nearly $600 million in domestic revenue generated by the first two installments, released in 1993 and 1997. It would be unwise, on the other hand, to underestimate the drawing power of Roberts against any adversary.

Four of her features released during the past five years have earned more than $100 million in North America: "My Best Friend's Wedding," "Notting Hill," "Runaway Bride" and "Erin Brockovich." Considering that all but "Brockovich" were relatively modest romantic comedies, those are hall-of-fame numbers.

"Jurassic III's" young-male posse is no guarantee of success over Roberts' female following, moreover. Conventional wisdom that young men make for better boxoffice has been violated repeatedly this summer.

Last weekend's "Legally Blonde" is the latest example, as the female-oriented comedy bested the video game-inspired "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" by nearly a 2-to-1 margin for the three-day period. "Jurassic III" will be a much bigger movie than "Fantasy" ($11.4 million for the weekend), but "Sweethearts" likely will blow away "Blonde" ($20.4 million) as well.

Roberts plays the frazzled personal assistant to mega movie star Catherine Zeta-Jones in "Sweethearts," a comedy directed by Revolution Films honcho Joe Roth. John Cusack co-stars as the man in the middle of the two women, while Billy Crystal, who co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Tolan, plays a high-powered Hollywood publicist.

"Jurassic III" revisits Costa Rica's Isla Sorna, where the reintroduced dinosaurs roam. After skipping the first sequel, paleontologist Sam Neill returns to the island in an expedition financed by wealthy businessman William H. Macy, an outing that turns nasty when the welcome mat is withdrawn. Joe Johnston ("October Sky," "Jumanji") directed a cast that also includes Tea Leoni, Trevor Morgan and Alessandro Nivola. Laura Dern, who starred in the original film, has a brief role.

Among veteran product, MGM's "Blonde" and Paramount's "The Score" represent the primary competition to "Sweethearts" and "Jurassic III."

MGM's "Ghost World" opens today in select markets. Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson star in the coming-of-age comedy-drama as high school seniors infatuated with the same boy (Brad Renfro). Steve Buscemi and Illeana Douglas co-star in the feature directed and co-written (with Daniel Clowes) by Terry Zwigoff.

Sony Pictures Classics' "Brother" plays exclusively in New York and Los Angeles. Takeshi Kitano (aka Beat Takeshi) wrote, directed and stars in the drama that explores the bond that develops between a Japanese gangster and his American partner in crime (Omar Epps) when they become caught up in a turf war with the mob. Claude Maki co-stars.

Fine Line's offbeat comedydrama-musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" debuts in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. John Cameron Mitchell wrote, directed and stars in the story of a German boy whose dream of becoming an American rock star is dashed as the result of a botched sex-change operation. Alberta Watson and Miriam Shor co-star.

Artisan's "Made" and Miramax's "Everybody's Famous!" move into the top 10 markets today. "Made," which opened to about $200,000 in three theaters last week, is a buddy comedy written and directed by Jon Favreau about a pair of mobster wannabes (Favreau and Vince Vaughn). "Famous" is a Dutch-language comedy from writer-director Dominique Deruddere that has earned about $60,000 in two weeks.

More entertainment industry news at The Hollywood Reporter Online

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