‘Aladdin’ magic bumps off ‘Men’

The new year starts with an “A” for “Aladdin.” The Buena Vista blockbuster soared into first place for the first time, pulling ahead of the pack with an estimated $ 15.5 million to $ 16 million, up almost 20% from Christmas weekend.

“Aladdin” knocked “A Few Good Men” into second, but the Castle Rock/Columbia film was also up slightly with about $ 14 million estimated in three days.

The top-heavy top five films accounted for two-thirds of all tickets sold nationally. Fox’s “Home Alone 2” should bring in an additional $ 10 million or so from the weekend. Warner’s “The Bodyguard” will add approximately $ 8.8 million to its total, followed by “Forever Young” with a projected $ 8 million.

The approximately $ 77 million grossed by the top 10 films is somewhere between 8% and 10% ahead of last year, a slight bump up from the final 1992 weekend–which was hampered by Christmas falling on a Friday. Figures may be slightly lower since final Sunday of the holiday period usually signals the beginning of a diminished attendance pattern.

Over the past week “Aladdin” has grossed about $ 32.2 million, more than any other film during Christmas week, more than the original “Home Alone,” which took in $ 29.1 million for the seven-day period, according to BV distribution chieftain Richard Cook. In so doing, it became the fastest Disney film to hit $ 100 million (in 38 days) and has eclipsed $ 115 million so far.

“Aladdin” is now running $ 33 million ahead of “Beauty and the Beast.” And if it stays on course, should do at least $ 175 million (considering that “Beauty” grossed an additional $ 60 million-plus after the new year). It could do more, says Cook, because it has a bigger adult and male audience than “Beauty.”

“Aladdin” should end up neck-and-neck with “Home Alone 2,” which is nearing $ 150 million, but has less life left in it. Insiders see “Home 2” ending out its run at about $ 180 million or so–one of the best sequel performers ever, better than “Batman Returns” and “Lethal Weapon 3,” 1992’s toptwo grossers, which “Home 2” will surpass by the time it’s through.

That makes two certain $ 150 million-plus grossers for the Christmas season and a possible third in “Men,” which has collected $ 77 million in 24 days, almost twice as much as “Rain Man” had made in a similar year-end release pattern.

Four to top $ 100 mil

“The Bodyguard,” which now has about $ 89 million banked, will be the unprecedented fourth holiday film to top $ 100 million.

The outstanding performance of those four films will compensate somewhat for the rest of the group, of which only “Forever Young,” with about $ 34 million so far, and “Dracula” ($ 82 million) are making any appreciable box office dent.

The rest of the major films in the marketplace are lackluster.

Fox’s “Hoffa” remained in sixth place with approximately $ 5 million or slightly more, down 25% from last weekend’s $ 6.4 million opening and a lethargic $ 15.5 million in 10 days.

“The Distinguished Gentleman” was about even with $ 4.4 million and a total of $ 38.5 million to date.

It’s now almost certain to be Murphy’s poorest star showing.

“Leap of Faith,” which crawled out of the gate, is at least sustaining at its modest level with a projected $ 4.2 million in its third weekend and a poor $ 16 .4 million to date.

“Toys,” however, continues its rapid descent to a little over $ 3 million and about $ 18 million so far.

Tenth place will go to either “Trespass,” down 40% to around $ 3 million and under $ 10 million so far, or “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” which should also take in $ 3 million for a decent $ 25 million total to date.

Better news comes from the newcomers in limited release, particularly Universal’s “Scent of a Woman,” which climbed to $ 465,000 on 20 screens, up 30% from its first weekend.

A Saturday sneak in 634 theaters was 82% capacity and 55% sold out, according to a U spokesman.

Exit polls were on the high side, 93% in the top two boxes, which bodes well for national release on Friday.

U’s debuting “Lorenzo’s Oil” managed $ 80,000 on three screens and $ 118,000 in its first five days, good considering how much of a marketing challenge it is to launch this demanding a film in a holiday cheer period.

Fox’s “Used People” fanned out to 48 screens and captured $ 740,000, about $ 15,500 a theater and $ 1.5 million so far.

Goldwyn’s “Peter’s Friends” amicably climbed 25% to $ 450,000 on 45 screens and more than $ 1 million in 10 days.

New Line’s “Damage” inflicted $ 130,000 on four screens, while Tri-Star’s “Chaplin” took about $ 114,000 in five runs.

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