‘Falling Down’ rises above weekend crowd

There was no hint of a stumble as Warner Bros’ “Falling Down” ascended to the top of the movie-going charts in its debut weekend.

The Bill Murray comedy “Groundhog Day” continued to show its furry legs and Oscar beamed down warmly on its chosen few — most especially Miramax’s “The Crying Game.” In the wake of post-Oscar ticket euphoria, weekend sales declined marginally by an estimated 13%.

Opening weekend business on “Falling Down” was estimated at about $ 8.5 million, significantly ahead of early industry tracking. The hard-to-define social angst/thriller was accorded a modest 1,220-screen launch when initial testing indicated a hard-to-sell proposition. However, awareness and the “want see” factor built steadily to opening day and the Michael Douglas starrer wound up averaging an estimated $ 6,970. Another clear sign of health was a heady 40% bump in Saturday from Friday business.

Columbia’s “Groundhog Day” was not far behind in second with an anticipated three-day gross of $ 7.5 million. The sci-fi comedy had a mild slip of 20%, proving itself as a potent antidote for those winter blues. Averaging $ 4,300 from 1,742 snug abodes, it has earned $ 36.2 million to date.

Buena Vista’s “Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey” trekked into third position with approximately $ 5.3 million. The beastly odyssey averaged $ 2,950 from 1,798 outposts for the weekend, representing a 21% drop in business. It has a cume of $ 22.3 million after three weekends.

Miramax’s “The Crying Game” expanded to 985 playdates and finished fourth with about $ 4.8 million. Rewriting the books for the company and specialized distribution, the offbeat saga became Miramax’s biggest box office grosser this weekend and arguably the top-earning specialized release in history. Weekend figures were down just 7% and during the mid-week it consistently ranked second. Averaging $ 4,870 for the period, it has grossed about $ 27.9 million to date.

Weekend business continued to exceed the record first quarter pace of 1992 with current three-day projections about 4% ahead of last year’s comparable period box-office. With 1993 revenues at approximately $ 730 million, it represents an overall increase of almost 3% from a year earlier.

Warner Bros’ “Sommersby” dropped 31% to finish fifth with an estimated $ 4.1 million. The surprisingly potent pairing of Richard Gere and Jodie Foster rang up averages of $ 2,320 from 1,762 encounters. Earnings to date are at $ 33.4 million.

Buena Vista continued to head toward its $ 200 million wish with sixth-ranked “Aladdin” conjuring up about $ 3.5 million for the weekend. The genial animated adventure was 22% off the pace for averages of $ 2,050 from 1,707 dates. After 110 nights and matinees, it has grossed $ 183.3 million.

MGM’s “Untamed Heart” continued to beat strongly with $ 2.5 million and seventh position. Posting averages of $ 2,220 from 1,123 diners, it has served up almost $ 11 million in ticket sales.

Universal’s Oscar-hopeful “Scent of a Woman” was 17% down for the weekend to finish eighth with approximately $ 2.4 million. Enjoying the sweet smell of success, the Al Pacino vehicle averaged $ 1,920 from 1,250 rendezvous. Its cume is now $ 44.9 million.

Other Oscar contenders continued to translate acclaim into ticket sales.

Placing 10th was Columbia/Castle Rock’s “A Few Good Men” with an estimated $ 1.9 million. The courtroom meller averaged $ 1,490 from 1,278 witness stands, representing a slight decline of 18%. The revenue champ among best picture contenders has a cume of $ 129.4 million. A trot away at 12th was Warner Bros’ “Unforgiven,” which walked away from the bar $ 1.2 million richer. In 767 saloons, the much-praised oater averaged $ 1,560 for the frame. It has a cume of $ 78.6 million.

Sony Classics’ “Howards End” added about 100 dates to bring its weekend gross to almost $ 900,000 and will likely finish 14th. Boosting its box office by 17%, the lush period drama averaged $ 2,190 from 402 manors. After almost one year of continuous release, its cume stands at $ 19.7 million.

The remaining top 10 placement went to Universal’s “Army of Darkness” with an estimated $ 2 million and ninth ranking. Second weekend business experienced a brutal 55% drop with averages of $ 1,440 from 1,391 castles. After 10 days of release it has estimated gross receipts of $ 7.5 million.

Columbia’s acquisition of the Spanish-lingo, no-budget thriller “El Mariachi” sang up about $ 270,000 in its 66-theater launch. With averages of $ 4,090, the news is encouraging but hardly rhapsodic.

Cannon’s “Fifty/Fifty” tongue-in-cheek action yarn wound up more like “Zero/Zero” with a gross of about $ 110,000 from 330 dates. Its $ 330 average may be one for the record books.

Miramax’s Mexican “Like Water For Chocolate” was alchemic, generating about $ 44,000 from 4 screens. The $ 11,000 average should bode well for its specialized life.

Considerably less auspicious was Fox’s director’s cut version of “The Abyss,” which weighed in at just under $ 20,000 from 2 exclusive dates.

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