‘Passenger’ lifts off with strong $ 10.6 mil

‘Twas the weekend before the first of the Thanksgiving-Christmas movies and all through the nation’s movie houses there was quite a stir. Box office recovered well from the previous weekend’s Halloween drop-off, led by a supersonic $ 10.6 million estimated debut for Warners’ “Passenger 57,” on 1,734 screens, or about $ 6,100 a screen.

Warner Bros. distribution chief Barry Reardon said that except for a couple of soft Southern runs, the film is going like gangbusters everywhere and especially in the top urban markets like New York, L.A., Chicago and San Francisco.

Also packing them in were WB’s “Under Siege,” Columbia’s “A River Runs Through It” and Buena Vista’s “The Mighty Ducks.”

If Sunday business is up to projections, the weekend will be 17% ahead of the comparable period last year and up more than 30% from the previous session.

The weekend’s other wide debut, Paramount’s psychologicalthriller “Jennifer 8 ,” stumbled toward a projected $ 3.5 million on 967 screens for a middling $ 3, 600 per screen, running neck-and-neck for fifth with Fox’s hearty “The Last of the Mohicans.”

Par was projecting Sunday biz at about $ 800,000, significantly less than the $ 1.2 million for the film Friday–never a good sign. “Jennifer” took in $ 1.5 million Saturday.

“Passenger 57” bumped WB’s other actioner, “Under Siege,” out of first class. But “Siege,” now the fall season’s top-grossing film with $ 59.7 million, was down a mere 5% from the previous stanza with an estimated $ 5.8 million on 2,248 screens, or about $ 2,600 per, good for second place.

Reardon was buoyed by this slight decline, particularly since both films are aimed at the same heavily male audience. With little in the action genre scheduled for the holiday season, he said both films have a good chance of sticking around through the end of the year.

Adding 213 screens, Columbia’s surprise crowd-pleaser “A River Runs Through It” reportedly did 20% better than in its first weekend of wide release with $ 5 .1 million on 1,008 screens, close to $ 5,100 per.

Col distribution head Jeff Blake said the studio is encouraged by the film’s strong showing in suburban and small-town runs, atop the already stable urban receipts. This augurs well for holdover biz as the holiday film barrage begins this week.

Buena Vista’s long-running “The Mighty Ducks” quacked upwards almost 50% from Halloween weekend to $ 4 million or slightly higher, depending on Sunday business–when family films can do especially well. That makes it the nation’s fourth most popular pic. On 1,816 screens, “Ducks” reportedly topped $ 2,200 per theater with a solid $ 35.1 million in the bank. BV’s other top-10 entry (in eighth) was “Consenting Adults,” with a projected $ 2.2 million on 1,520 screens , a paltry $ 1,427 per theater and a disappointing $ 17.1 million after four weeks.

The last has not been heard from Fox’s “The Last of the Mohicans,” which with $ 3.5 million in its seventh weekend was up from $ 3.28 million over Halloween. On 1,818 screens, “Mohicans” mustered more than $ 1,900 per screen and has claimed $ 59.3 million to date.

TriStar’s “Candyman” slipped to seventh place, sliding to $ 2.6 million on 1, 486 screens, for about $ 1,750 per theater. Total to date is an OK $ 19.2 million.

Rounding out the top 10 were WB’s “Pure Country” in ninth with $ 1.7 million, and U’s “Sneakers,” up slightly to $ 1.1 million.

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