Originally created 07/14/97

`Contact' earns $20.5 million, second to `Men in Black'



LOS ANGELES (AP) - While scientists probed the surface of Mars, their fellow humans made alien-hunting the most popular theme at the weekend box office as "Men in Black" and "Contact" topped the list.

"Contact" opened with $20.5 million in ticket sales while "Men in Black" earned $30.5 million to rate No. 1 for a second week, according to estimates Sunday.

"Men in Black," starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as secret police protecting Earth from intergalactic criminals, now has grossed $140 million.

"Contact," a more serious look at the possibility of life on other planets, stars Jodie Foster as a scientist obsessed with contacting aliens.

The only other new release making the top 10 was "A Simple Wish," a lightly regarded children's film starring Martin Short as a wacky genie. It was No. 9 with $2.6 million, just above "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," which earned $1.3 million in its eighth week.

The dinosaur sequel has taken in a total of $220.9 million.

Disney's big summer animated release, "Hercules," was bumped down two notches to fifth place, taking in $8.2 million in its fifth week, according to estimates from Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

"Face/Off" was No. 3 in its third week with $12.3 million while "My Best Friend's Wedding" remained in fourth place with $8.4 million.

"Out to Sea" held onto its No. 6 spot for a second week with $4.1 million, followed by "Batman and Robin," which had $3.8 million. That gross was down 53 percent from the previous week. The film has earned a total of $98.5 million in four weeks.

Final figures were to be released Monday.

The top films from Friday through Sunday:

1. "Men in Black," $30.5 million.

2. "Contact," $20.5 million.

3. "Face/Off," $12.3 million.

4. "My Best Friend's Wedding," $8.4 million.

5. "Hercules," $8.2 million.

6. "Out to Sea," $4.1 million.

7. "Batman and Robin," $3.8 million.

8. "Con Air," $2.8 million.

9. "A Simple Wish," $2.6 million.

10. "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," $1.3 million.