‘Lover’ hot on coasts; L.A. likes ‘Sick’ animation

For the past two weekends, director Jean-Jacques Annaud’s “The Lover” has been the top performer among the films in exclusive release, as moviegoers showed up in force for the steamy tale of interracial romance in colonial Vietnam.

During a strong weekend at the box office overall, the film earned $ 49,818 on three screens in Los Angeles and $ 52,229 on one screen in Gotham, holding its own in the face of new film competitors.

Angelenos also demonstrated their off-center taste with the “Sick and Twisted Animation Festival,” a collection of animated short films that range from the scatological to the sexually deviant. It earned a nice $ 16,103.

“In the Soup,” a tale of a struggling would-be filmmaker whose relationship with a fast-talking smoothie forces him to get a life, opened in Los Angeles to strong reviews, but it earned a middle-range $ 13,808 on two screens.

Nikita Mikhalkov’s “Close to Eden” made its debut in Los Angeles to so-so grosses of $ 4,879.

A number of specialty films bowed in New York, but none put on a remarkable showing: The U.S.-German “Becoming Colette” scored $ 12,692; “The Match Factory Girl,” a Finnish film about a sad woman’s dreary life, earned $ 5,924, and “The Quarrel,” described by its distributor as a Jewish “My Dinner With Andre,” took in a so-so $ 5,549 at the Film Forum.

These are the films in exclusive release in Los Angeles and New York for the three-day period.

Los Angeles

“The Lover” (MGM) down 9% to $ 20,528 at the Cineplex Beverly Center, off 26% to $ 16,135 at the AMC Century 14, $ 13,155 at the AMC Santa Monica 7, a 9% slide, in its second tumble in Indochina.

“Sick and Twisted Animation Festival” (Mellow Manor Prods.) $ 16,103 in its opening toon-in at the Laemmle Monica.

“In the Soup” (Triton) $ 7,047 in its debut portrait of a starving artist at the Goldwyn Pavilion and $ 6,761 at the Laemmle Sunset 5.

“Close to Eden” (Miramax) $ 4,879 at the Royal in its opening examination of life in Mongolia.

“The Efficiency Expert” (Miramax) $ 3,519 at the AMC Century 14 and $ 1,401 at the Laemmle Sunset 5, in its first modernization.

“Johnny Stecchino” (New Line) off 27% to $ 3,623 in its third pratfall at the Goldwyn, and $ 3,277 at the Cineplex Beverly Center, off 14%.

“Venice, Venice” (Rainbow Releasing) $ 3,309, up 6%, in its fifth look at how movies shape our perceptions about love.

“Danzon” (Sony Pictures Classics) $ 3,102, a 20% jump at the Laemmle Monica, in its second search for a dance partner and $ 2,642 in its fourth journey at the Laemmle Sunset 5, up 10%.

“Fathers and Sons” (Pacific Pictures) a poor $ 1,868 in its first generational conflict.

New York

“The Lover” a 5% slide to $ 52,229 in its second romantic tangle at the Loew Fine Arts.

“Waterland” (Fine Line) $ 20,077 in its second weekend at the Lincoln Plaza, up 9%.

“My New Gun” (I.R.S.) $ 13,641, up 37%, in its second encounter with security measures in the suburbs.

“Becoming Colette” (Castle Hill) $ 12,692 in the first weekend for the period drama’s examination of the young life of novelist Sidonie Gabrielle Colette at the City Sutton.

“Johnny Stecchino”$ 11,510 in the mob comedy’s fifth guffaw at the City 68th Street Playhouse, up 4%, and $ 6,796 at the City Village East, first showing there.

“In the Soup”$ 8,072 in its third portrait of the filmmaker at the Angelika and $ 2,580, an 18% slide, at the City 68th Street Playhouse.

“Simple Men” (Fine Line) $ 7,977 at the Angelika, fourth showing, up46%.

“Flirting” (Goldwyn) $ 6,499 at the Cineplex Carnegie Hall, in this teen film’s opening trifle.

“Van Gogh” (Sony Pictures Classics) $ 6,100, up 17% in the Lincoln Plaza, in its second impression.

“The Match Factory Girl” (Kino Intl.) $ 5,924 in the first weekend at the Lincoln Plaza.

“Swoon”$ 5,848 at the Angelika, second retelling of the Leopold & Loeb tale, up 43% at the Angelika.

“The Quarrel” (Apple & Honey) $ 5,549 at the Film Forum in its opening reconciliation.

“A Brief History of Time” (Triton) $ 5,446, up 78% in its 12th black hole, and $ 4,331 at the City Village East, first showing there.

“Venice, Venice”$ 5,343 at the Valu Art East, in its second gondola ride.

“The Panama Deception” (Empowerment Project) $ 4,803, down 26%, in its third bashing of Reagan-Bush antics in Latin America.

“Gas Food Lodging” (I.R.S.) $ 3,982 at the City Murray Hill, first showing at that venue.

“Danzon”$ 3,286 in its second trip of the light fantastic at the Quad.

“Brother’s Keeper” (Creative Thinking Intl.) $ 3,017 in its fifth sibling rivalry at the Quad.

“Hugh Hefner: Once Upon a Time” (I.R.S.) $ 2,702 at the Loew Festival, first weekend for the docu about the perennial pajama wearer.

“The Efficiency Expert”$ 3,021 at the Loew Village Sevenplex and $ 2,514 at the Cineplex Carnegie Hall, first showing of the Australian comedy.

“Painting the Town”$ 1,799 at the City Village East in its first weekend.

“Fathers and Sons”$ 1,603 at the Loew 19th St. and $ 1,093 in the first familial conflict at the Loew Orpheum Sevenplex.

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