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`SPEED’ AND `WOLF’ TO DO BATTLE AT THE BOX OFFICE

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The second weekend of "Speed" and the opening weekend of "Wolf" are expected to top the nation's box office with about $15 million each, with "Speed" getting an edge because of strong word of mouth.

20th Century Fox's "Speed" posted a better-than-expected debut with $14.5 million at 2,138 screens last weekend and has received exceptional critical support."Speed," starring Keanu Reeves as a SWAT officer and Dennis Hopper as a terrorist, appears to be one of the most popular major releases in recent months with the studio having made a wise choice in rolling out the film when audiences were hungering for escapist fare.

Columbia's "Wolf" also has strong prospects as the drama opens on more than 2,100 screens. The studio orignally planned to open the movie in March but then decided to position it for summer release to maximize its box office potential.

Moviegoers have been seeing trailers for "Wolf," starring Jack Nicholson and Michelle Pfeiffer, for several months, and reports have emerged of strong interest in the film across a wide audience.

However, the reviews on "Wolf" have been mixed, with complaints that the film is predictable. The strong buzz over "Speed" may also take away some viewers, but "Wolf" probably has enough appeal to go past $50 million during its run.

The opening weekend of MGM's comedy "Getting Even With Dad" will probably be third with about $10 million at about 1,950 screens.

MGM, once the most powerful Hollywood studio but only a minor player in recent years, is likely to recapture some of that glory through the release of the Macaulay Culkin-Ted Danson project and its explosion-laden "Blown Away" July 1.