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‘Fugitive’ fuels B.O. momentum

If the summer moviegoing season is winding down, then no one has bothered to tell the folks at Warner Bros. The company’s “The Fugitive” ran away with $ 22, 438,277 for the weekend and averages of $ 9,492.

That’s a lot of hay at any time of year but it’s an especially large number for a second weekend. It’s all the more impressive when you add in that second weekend business dropped just 6% from the film’s opening frame. It is certainly the best hold of any of this summer’s blockbusters and the smallest second-weekend drop in memory.

With “The Fugitive” now set to join the rarefied air occupied by such films as “Jurassic Park,””The Firm” and “Sleepless in Seattle,” summer continues to blaze.

The cumulative seasonal gross — with three more play weeks until Labor Day — now ranks as the second-largest ever. With$ 1.72 billion in the till, this summer is sure to exceed record 1989 business and go over $ 2 billion.

Not everyone is celebrating, however. Confronted with such formidable competition, a crop of new entries simply didn’t have a chance.

Not that the marketing strategies of the major new entries were any inspiration to go to the movies.

Warner Bros., brilliant with its marketing of “The Fugitive,” opted for a “Masterpiece Theatre” campaign on “The Secret Garden.”

The opening weekend gross of just $ 4,625,583 should certainly prompt a hurried retreat to the drawing board. It might already be too late.

Second wind skeptics

With averages of $ 3,507, even its clutch of favorable reviews give little hope of a second act boost.

Virtually the identical scenario, with comparable numbers, applies to Universal’s “Heart and Souls.” The fantasy-comedy opened with a box office of $ 4,322,250 and averages of $ 3,390.

Not based on a children’s classic, the question surrounding the promotion of this film always boiled down to “what is it?” The studio never quite knew how to get the picture across to audiences. It was a “nice” picture and finished in the adjectively appropriate position.

In contrast to rather fuzzy campaigns and concepts, New Line just marched into the marketplace boldly and shamelessly offered its “Jason Goes to Hell — The Final Friday.”

There was no need to please the masses — the company wanted the horror fan and rang up $ 7,552,190 worth of business. Obviously that niche was ready to scream as reflected in the picture’s $ 5,574 averages.

‘Searching’ for B.O.

Seemingly a less risky proposition was Paramount’s 219-print launch of “Searching for Bobby Fischer” which had an opening weekend of $ 1,121,354. But testing the waters for the critically embraced drama may have confused rather than enlightened subsequent strategy. Averages of $ 5,120 aren’t quite at a level that would encourage immediate expansion.

Paramount’s next move is not to get put in check but to maintain the film’s visibility and playability long enough to create wider interest. It’s the same sort of problem that confronts TriStar’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery” opening Friday. Audiences and critics love both films. However, it’s a core group and the ultimate goal for each film is bringing in people who would enjoy the picture but just don’t know it yet.

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