By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated September 05, 2001 08:18 AM

What was widely speculated all summer is now officially true as of Wednesday, when the box office tracker, ACNielsen EDI, released its findings. And that is, the hot-season movie ticket sales, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, hit an all-time high of $2.96 billion this year (beating the existing record, set in 1999, by 2%), although the wealth was shared among several films that opened big as opposed to one or two runaway smashes that showed longevity at the box office. In addition, no Oscar frontrunner has emerged all year from Hollywood, which now places greater pressure upon the autumn and year-end holiday releases. (Harry Potter, are you listening?) The No. 1 summer movie was “Shrek,” the computer-generated animated fairy tale, which took in $262.9 million. No. 2 was “Rush Hour 2,” with $198.9 million, so far. The much ballyhooed “Pearl Harbor” took in $196.7 million — which represents good business, just not as much as might have been anticipated. Still, notes the Los Angeles Times, “Pearl Harbor” will probably gross more than $450 million worldwide, hardly chump change despite its $140-million budget. And while “Shrek” may have been (by far) the most profitable picture of the season, there were also some far less costly sleepers around, namely “Legally Blonde,” “The Princess Diaries,” “The Others” and “The Fast and the Furious.”