With an estimated Memorial Day weekend gross of $75.1m, Touchstone Pictures' $140m Pearl Harbor enjoyed the second highestfour-day holiday tally ever at North American theatres. However, even this fell short of the box office blitz that many in the media had been preparing for.

Pearl Harbor may have elbowed out Mission: Impossible 2 toclaim second spot in the four-day rankings behind only Steven Spielberg'sThe Lost World: Jurassic Park (which opened with $90.2m over the same weekend in 1997) but such was the hype surrounding the arrival of this would-be World War Two epic that media pundits seemed unimpressed when the figures became public.

Not helping Pearl Harbor's cause were the largely negative reviews thataccompanied the release and the fact that its Friday-Sunday three-day figure of$39.7m paled next to the $68.1m three-day opening record just two weeks earlierby The Mummy Returns.

But, like everything else ina film business driven by spin, judging Pearl Harbor's performance comes down to a matter of which benchmarksare deemed most valid. With a running time in excess of three hours, Walt Disney's distribution executives say that breaking records was out of the question for a film that can run three or at most four times a day only. Moreover, most of those screenings were sold out. A more valid comparison, the spin-meisters would suggest, is a long-running film like Titanic that grossed an unspectacular $28.6m during itsfirst weekend but then kept maintaining its box office momentum.

Like James Cameron'sblockbuster, Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor also attempts to graft a love story onto a well-known historical chapter. And there are early reports that young girls,the key demographic behind Titanic'sphenomenal success, were caught up in the love triangle uniting Ben Affleck,Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale. But only the next few weeks will tellwhether this translates into the repeat business that will be necessary tocarry the film beyond the initial hoopla created by Buena Vista's carpet-bombing marketing tactics.

In the meantime, producer Jerry Bruckheimer can content himself with the knowledge that those first threedays still represents his best ever opening gross, beating even Armageddon.

The fact that no one elsedared open a major film against Pearl Harbor meant that several of last week's holdovers could add appreciably to their existing totals. The most notable of these was Shrek, which accumulated another $54.2m over the holiday, to overtake Chicken Run as DreamWorks'most successful animated movie ever.

The other stand-out is ChrisNolan's Memento, which continuesto exhibit all the hallmarks of a word-of-mouth "sleeper" hit byactually climbing two places to achieve its highest ranking yet on its tenthweek on release.


Film (US distributor); internationaldistribution; estimated four-day holiday weekend gross

1 (-) Pearl Harbour (Touchstone) Buena Vista International $75.1m

2 (1) Shrek (DreamWorks SKG) Universal/UIP $54.2m

3 (2) The Mummy Returns (Universal) UIP $19.1m

4 (3) A Knight'sTale (Columbia) Columbia TriStar$9.3m

5 (4) Angel Eyes (Warner Bros) Franchise Pictures $6.3m

6 (5) Bridget Jones'Diary (Miramax)Universal/StudioCanal $4.0m

7 (6) Along Came A Spider (Paramount) UIP $2.2m

8 (10) Memento (Newmarket) Summit Entertainment $1.9m

9 (8) Blow (New Line) New Line International $1.3m

10 (7) Driven (Warner Bros) Franchise Pictures $1.2m