Just weeks ago, ''Pearl Harbor'''s hard-to-avoid marketing campaign made attendance seem like a civic duty. But as the pricey film has been overshadowed by ''Shrek'' as this summer's big draw, can ''Pearl'' still become a box office gem? Once expected to pass $200 million in domestic box office easily, Michael Bay's World War II epic -- with an estimated $240 million price tag, including marketing -- was dry-docked at $144 million at press time. (And roughly half of that will be kept by theaters.) Gitesh Pandya, editor of boxofficeguru.com, says it ''has a very long road to travel on before it reaches profitability.''
Blaming poor word of mouth and a lack of repeat customers, Pandya estimates ''Pearl'' needs a worldwide gross of $500-600 million to break even. But Christopher Dixon, entertainment analyst at UBS Warburg, calculates it's already profitable, given potential income from video, DVD, cable, and TV -- and projects ''Pearl'' will likely end up $75 million in the black. For his part, Disney Motion Pictures Group chairman Dick Cook dismisses the naysayers: ''Box office analysts [are] terribly wrong....'' [We've] got all summer to play.'' Bombs away.
Additional reporting by Daniel Fierman