Warner Bros.’ “The Pelican Brief” performed just a bit better than expected and a whole lot better than anything else in the marketplace during the holiday weekend. The Julia Roberts/Denzel Washington thriller rang in with $ 11,124,936 for an impressive $ 5,540 average.

“Brief” is drawing a solid audience but it’s still uncertain whether it will have the legs necessary to carry it to a gross of $ 100 million. Assuming it does, that would still make holiday 1993 a gross disappointment with only two pix reaching that level. Fox’s “Mrs. Doubtfire”– currently with an $ 89.2 million cume — is the only title with a lock on the figure.

Somehow in the process of shooting for the moon, a lot of people and pictures got no further than Pacoima. The cheery predictions of five films pushing past the century mark amounted to a shortfall that figures to be between $ 150 million-$ 200 million.

The sequels “Wayne,””Sister” and “Addams” will probably gross less than 60% of the originals — the industry rule of thumb. “Beethoven’s 2nd” may just hit that mark.

Add “A Perfect World,””The Three Musketeers” and “Carlito’s Way” to the soup and you have another trio of underachievers.

Searching for good tidings

So, what’s the seasonal good cheer?

The little glimmer that exists, apart from “Doubtfire,” comes from remote corners.

Topping the list is Universal’s “Schindler’s List,” which broadened to 74 playdates on the weekend and earned $ 1,275,258, with a $ 17,223 average.

Similarly, the arrival of TriStar’s AIDS-themed “Philadelphia” with a $ 143, 433 total from four screens bucked the holiday trend of popcorn entertainment.

Small change

The remainder of freshmen specialized fare had less formidable returns. Oliver Stone’s third Vietnamese foray, “Heaven and Earth,” was only fair with $ 379,807 from 63 playdates.

Goldwyn’s “The Summer House” was a disappointing $ 161,542 at 60 theaters, while a pair of Sony Classics titles –”Faraway, So Close” and “The Accompanist”– debuted respectively with $ 55,019 on 13 dates and $ 23,812 from four. That was encouraging, but not overwhelming.

‘Batman’s’ slow returns

The new wides saw an instant casualty in Warner Bros.’ “Batman: Mask of the Phantasm,” which preemed to $ 1,198,975 for a two-day average of $ 796. Better was the same studio’s “Grumpy Old Men,” earning $ 3,874,911 and a $ 3,115 average. And best, and still smokin’, was Hollywood Pictures’ “Tombstone,” posting $ 6,454,752 and a two-day average of $ 4,292.

Bargain B.O.

The other good news of the season comes from the discount arena. Tearing up a lot of reduced-price tickets are such films as “Cool Runnings” and “Jurassic Park.” Both will probably have to step aside sooner than expected to accommodate some high-profile low grossers.

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