This weekend, beaches across America should be as deserted as the surf after the shark attacks in Jaws. While a few souls may get a tan, everyone else will be part of the mass scream at between 3,000 and 5,000 movie screens this weekend for Steven Spielberg's breathlessly paced, buoyantly bloody The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Spielberg and his crew barely made it to theaters in time. The special effects reportedly weren't finished until May 10. To get the publicity push rolling, the studio had to show an incomplete version to print, radio and television interviewers in Los Angeles several weekends ago. While the film premiered Monday night in Los Angeles, out-of-town reviewers--even Siskel and Ebert--didn't have an opportunity to see it until Wednesday night.

The Lost World will probably rule supreme as the biggest movie money-maker on the planet--at least until George Lucas avenges himself with the Star Wars prequel. Although rivals are sending more than a few hundred million dollars in movie and publicity budgets rushing toward theaters this summer, they've left Memorial Day weekend to the dinos. The next big pictures don't roll out until Con Air (AKA The Guns of Testosterone) on June 6, followed on successive weekends by Speed II, Batman and Robin, Julia Roberts' return to romantic comedy in My Best Friend's Wedding and over the July 4 holiday, the general showbuzz pick for the season's second-highest grosser, Men in Black.

But by that time, some analysts are predicting that The Lost World may have a quarter-billion dollars in admissions in the bank already. Even after the global zap of Independence Day, the original Jurassic Park remains the international box-office titlist, with a world-wide gross of $556 million. When Jurassic was released in 1993, it took a then-record $50.2 million. With higher ticket prices than ever, running up to $9 in New York City, Jurassic has a strong chance of taking a big bite out of Independence Day's record from last year. Some opening weekend predictions run as high as $80 million. (Reality check: In today's dollars, classics like Gone With the Wind have far outsold these newcomers.)

In some larger cities, marathon screenings are running around the clock over the weekend. It may well be worth staying up past your bedtime: Critics generally concede that Lost delivers the goods for thrillseekers, with its crunchy violence, superbly realized dinosaur effects and a climax that beats next year's Godzilla to the monster-loose-in-the-city sweepstakes.

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