No sport whose world championship is decided by penalty kicks could keep Americans away from the movies. Although early projections for a record nonholiday-weekend box office proved unsupportable when actual attendance figures came in, World Cup couldn't crimp the nation's interest in world-beating movie heroes.
Led by three powerhouse performers -- Arnold Schwarzenegger's action-comedy comeback "True Lies," the phenomenally strong holdover "Forrest Gump" and Disney's continually regal "The Lion King" -- the combined gross of 68 films in release was $101,650,507, according to the industry data clearinghouse Exhibitor Relations.
The nonholiday weekend box office record of $103 million was set over the weekend of July 9-11, 1993, when "Jurassic Park," "The Firm," "Sleepless in Seattle" and "In the Line of Fire" led the pack.
"True Lies," which reteamed Mr. Schwarzenegger with "Terminator" writer-director James Cameron, squeaked into first with $25.9 million (another $1.6 million or so came in from Thursday sneaks).
That places the opening numbers for "True Lies" closer to those of Mr. Schwarzenegger's "Total Recall" ($25.5 million) than to his last outing with Mr. Cameron, "Terminator 2" ($31.8 million on the tail end of a July 4 holiday). However you slice it, it's a vast improvement over last summer's Schwarzenegger embarrassment "Last Action Hero," which made its debut at $14.5 million.
The second-weekend figures for "Forrest Gump" were in some ways more heroic. Off a mere 1 percent from its first three-day frame, the Tom Hanks nostalgia trip earned another $24.1 million, for an astounding 12-day total of $72.1 million. On some 350 fewer screens than "True Lies," "Gump" led the per-theater average race at $11,979 compared with $10,925 for "Lies."
Both pictures still have a long way to go before they catch up with the king of the summer movie jungle. "The Lion King" is still more than $100 million ahead of "Gump" in the total column with $174.3 million.