Perhaps audiences were scoping out seats for The Phantom Menace, or else people just thought seeing The Mummy sounded like an appropriate way to spend Mother’s Day. Either way, that creepiest of crypt crackers heated up Brendan Fraser’s career (the actor’s asking price is said to have suddenly unwrapped from $5 million to $10 million plus) and breathed new life into Universal, a studio desperately seeking resurrection.
”I knew when [Universal president] Ron Meyer woke me up with a phone call at 6:01 a.m. the night after the movie opened,” says The Mummy’s screenwriter/director, Stephen Sommers, ”that something was definitely up.” Way up, in fact. With a three-day box office take of $43.4 million — about $15 million more than analysts had predicted — the movie was Universal’s third-biggest opening ever, behind only the two Jurassic Parks. Good timing, considering that just days earlier, Edgar Bronfman Jr., CEO of Seagram’s, Universal’s parent company, had said that movie flops were to blame for recent company losses. (Taken together, last year’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Babe: Pig in the City, and Blues Brothers 2000 made less than Mummy’s opening weekend.)
Nobody’s griping now. With Mummy, ”Universal tapped into an escapist summer-movie tradition that goes back well beyond Indiana Jones to Saturday-morning serials,” says Paul Dergarabedian of Exhibitor Relations. It’s horrifying, really. Already Universal is fast-tracking remakes of The Invisible Man, The Phantom of the Opera, Creature From the Black Lagoon, and an untitled computer-animated ”monster project” with Industrial Light & Magic, featuring Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. Meanwhile Imagine Entertainment and Alphaville Productions, which made Mummy, are working out the prenups on a Bride of Frankenstein remake.
Another Mummy’s likely to be unearthed too. ”We see the sequel as The Mummy Goes to London,” says coproducer Jim Jacks. ”He’s shipped to the British Museum and suddenly wakes up again.” Which is the beauty of this particular creature, is it not? Explains coproducer Sean Daniel: ”The Mummy has a wonderful history in that he keeps coming back. Death and near-death are only the beginning.” Perhaps the same can be said now for Universal.