'Stitch,' 'Minority Report' to Rule with the Majority

by Brandon Gray
June 21, 2002

On technically the first weekend of summer, audiences will flock to see two movies on the sci-fi tip about characters on the run—superstar Tom Cruise in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report and mischievous alien mutant Stitch in Disney's Lilo & Stitch.

Sci-fi thriller Minority Report finds Cruise and Spielberg coming off of two other sci-fi flicks—2001's Vanilla Sky and A.I. Artificial Intelligence respectively—that were perceived as disappointments despite each grossing over $200 million worldwide.

But forget the momentous first-time teaming of the biggest movie star in the world with the most bankable director ever. Forget Pre-Cogs and Pre-Crime units... Everybody runs. That's the message the marketing for Minority Report is pushing.

Aside from the "Top Gun in a _____" plotline, the dominant theme of Cruise's career is running. Just about every picture of his tries to fit in a scene of him sprinting in the promotional material, even a picture like the romantic dramedy Jerry Maguire. The Minority campaign mounted by 20th Century Fox seems fully aware of Cruise's iconography, shedding all pretenses and focusing on the one activity audiences want to see him engaging in.

"You don't have to run," a Pre-Crime cop advises in the ads. "You don't have to chase me," Cruise replies.

Cruise also gets to say the movie's slogan "Everybody runs" in the ads and the action-packed trailer, which climaxes with the resurrection of the suspense music from Aliens that had been quite commonly used in marketing campaigns a few years ago. Some TV spots have been cleverly counting down to the picture's release with the line "In 3 days, the minority rules" or a variant of it depending on how imminent June 21 was.

Though the initial poster of Cruise's face with a bandage over his eyes left much to be desired, later posters showed a profile of Cruise mid-sprint. On bus billboards, Cruise's name is actually bigger than the title of the movie, and Spielberg's is not to be found. People might as well say "Tom Cruise" when identifying the movie their plunking down their money for at the box office.

Such emphasis certainly makes sense as Cruise's starring roles have opened to a whopping $28 million on average over the past 10 years. However, he's never done sci-fi before other than Vanilla Sky, which was promoted more like Jerry Maguire meets Fatal Attraction anyway. The Mission: Impossible movies, though, may have offered enough high-tech gadgetry to make Cruise's leap 50 years into the future not a problem for his fanbase.

Chasing down 3,011 theaters, Minority Report probably has the Pre-Cogs buzzing in their embryonic pool that a box office killing is about to happen, possibly to the tune of $45 million—a new high for Cruise in a movie not based on well known material.

Disney seems to be having a blast promoting its latest traditionally animated event Lilo & Stitch. Teasers have featured the titular Stitch interrupting famous scenes from Aladdin, The Little Mermaid and most notably The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. It's a clever passing of the baton from the studio's early '90s heyday to what it hopes is its revival after overall diminishing returns from 1995's Pocahontas on through last summer's Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

The rabble-rousing Stitch is designed in such away to come off as both cute and disgusting, likely leaving kids in, well, stitches with his antics. The theme of "ohana" could warm enough hearts to please the entire family, which the Hawaiian term means as Lilo declares in the trailer.

Landing at 3,191 theaters, Lilo & Stitch marks the widest bow ever for one of Disney's hand-drawn features. With positive buzz and a new energy not unlike that of 1999's Tarzan, it could open in the high end of the studio's animated range, possibly gobbling up around $34 million this weekend.

Also opening is the cross-dressing basketball comedy Juwanna Mann at 1,325 venues. It has no direct competitors, and it has a high concept premise that has worked with urban audiences before (Big Momma's House). It could score a solid opening in the $7 million range.

Tom Cruise and Stitch should spook Scooby-Doo in dropping half or more of its business. Its built-in audience and mixed reception made it inherently front-loaded anyway, so Scooby and the gang could come in third place with around $25 million.

Meanwhile, MGM has launched a new wave of ads for Windtalkers yet has given Jason Isaacs yet another voice. Isaacs (The Patriot) plays the higher up who sets the premise up by telling star Nicolas Cage to "protect the code" among other things. The degree of dubbing has become comical. The John Woo-directed World War II flick should fall 50% or more to around $7 million.

On the same frame last year, The Fast and the Furious stunned many pundits by accelerating to $40,089,015 at 2,628 venues en route $144,533,925, while Dr. Dolittle 2 fell short of its predecessor, but nonetheless posted a $25,037,039 bow at 3,049 theaters on course to $112,952,899. At No. 3, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider tumbled 59% to $19,786,356 in its sophomore session, excavating $131,168,070 by the end of its run.

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