Domestic film box office in July soared 44% over last year to a record of $ 721.9 million, which is also 7% above the comparable 1989 period tally of $ 674. 6 million. “The Firm,””Jurassic Park,””In the Line of Fire” and “Sleepless in Seattle” were the leading hits.

After nine weeks of summer, season B.O. is a staggering $ 1.42 billion, up 26 % from last year’s $ 1.12 billion and also 4% above 1989’s comparable figure of $ 1.36 billion.

That a new summer B.O. record will be set is virtually certain under three scenarios. If business over the next six weeks merely equals last year, the season will come in a hair over the 1989 record of $ 2.04 billion.

And if the remaining weeks equal those of 1989, the final number will be about $ 2.09 billion. But if the current pace continues, the season can reach $ 2.11 billion or better.

As for July performance alone, the $ 721.9 million estimate breaks down to 140.7 million tickets sold at a national average price of $ 5.13. Comparable data last year were $ 502 million, 100.3 million tix and $ 5.01.

The July ticket haul is also thebest since 1989, when 150.2 million tickets were sold.

The seasonally adjusted Variety Box Office Index for July soared to 116.6, a new peak for the period, from 82.2 a year ago. The Index base of 100.0 is pegged to 1990, so last month’s level of business was 16.6% over the average month’s business in the base year.

Cumulative 29-week business this year is $ 2.97 billion, the highest ever at this calendar point and nearly 3% over the $ 2.89 billion posted at the same point in 1989. The big question now is whether the full year can break the $ 5 billion levels set in 1989-90.

The answer will depend on three factors: strength of late-summer releases holding into autumn, new releases in autumn, and the year-end season — this year dampened by the Saturday location of Christmas.

In 1989, Christmas was on Monday, and in 1990 on Tuesday. This had the effect of extending the preceding weekend, while this year, the Christmas weekend will be hurt.

Other major pix in July were “Rookie of the Year,””Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,””Dennis the Menace,””Free Willy,””Son-in-Law” and “Hocus Pocus.”

The July period in this survey was the four-week span July 2-29.

Cumulative tickets sold through July are estimated at 582.2 million, up 10% over 527.5 million a year ago, according to the exclusive Daily Variety B.O. survey.

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