LOS ANGELES -- Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg wound up in a dead heat with a cartoon kid and her goofy alien pal.
"Minority Report," Cruise and Spielberg's sci-fi thriller, took in $35.7 million in its first weekend. That would put it barely ahead of the animated "Lilo & Stitch," which debuted with $35.3 million.
Disney, which released "Lilo & Stitch," and other studios had tracked "Lilo & Stitch" in first place, slightly ahead of "Minority Report." The weekend's other new wide release, "Juwanna Mann," debuted at No. 7 with $6 million.
The top movies rarely bunch up so closely. In 1999, Sunday estimates had Paramount's "Double Jeopardy" in first place, Universal's "The Story of Us" in second and Fox's "Fight Club" in third. Final figures Monday lifted "Fight Club" to No. 1.
Studio executives privately grouse that competitors sometimes inflate Sunday estimates to make a film's results look better, even if only for a day, before reporting lower numbers Monday. But studios avoid public fingerpointing.
"The first reporting of the box office, in my mind, tends to be the one that sticks in people's minds," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks ticket sales. "You can have people proclaiming a movie as No. 1 for the rest of the week, even if it winds up being No. 2 come Monday."
"Lilo & Stitch" clearly would be No. 1 based on actual tickets sold. It managed to do virtually the same amount of cash business as "Minority Report," though a much higher percentage of "Lilo & Stitch" admissions came from cheaper tickets for children and adult matinees.
Many in Hollywood say that instead of counting dollars, the industry should track movies based on number of tickets sold, a method used in some European countries. That would provide a fairer head-to-head ranking of films and eliminate the inflation factor that skews all-time box-office charts toward newer movies, which place higher than older films because of ever-rising ticket prices.
Spielberg, in an interview three weeks ago with The Associated Press, said he would prefer a system based on admissions numbers.
"I really wish we could forget about these obsessions with box office, and rather than printing how much money the movie earns in current dollars, it would be much more valid a measurement to do what they do in France, which is to count heads," Spielberg said. "And to basically determine how well your film is doing based on admissions."
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