HOLIDAY B.O.’S FIT FOR A KING; ‘Aladdin’ magically regains lead; ‘Men’s’ in 2nd

A popular industry sentiment says there’s nothing wrong with box office grosses that a Monday holiday each month wouldn’t cure.

Case in point: The Martin Luther King Jr. Day annual celebration in mid-January.

The additional day of leisure propelled box office totals to $ 65,573,332 for the top 10 films, up a significant 35% from the previous weekend’s $ 48.5 million three-day cume and just 2.8% off tallies from the comparable weekend last year.

In addition to breathing new life into such veterans as “Aladdin,” the holiday afforded an opportunity to maximize their significant premiere weekend marketing outlays for such major entries as Buena Vista’s “Alive,” Columbia’s “Nowhere to Run” and MGM’s “Body of Evidence.”

“Aladdin” benefited most from the school holiday, going north by a phenomenal 30% to $ 10,920,346 on 2,331 screens.

Grosses that high two months into the film’s run suggest that the animated blockbuster may cross the $ 200 million threshold, the first film to do so since 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

Further, with $ 139 million to date, “Aladdin” will certainly be Disney’s top-grossing animated title, the current record-holder being “Beauty and the Beast,” which grossed $ 145 domestically. And, if “Aladdin” follows a similar pattern overseas, it may surpass “Beauty’s” offshore $ 175 million to date. Dizzying.

The holiday was also kind to “A Few Good Men,” which Columbia distribution head Jeff Blake said should gross as much in January as it did in the thick of its Christmastime opening weeks. That’s a testament to both the film and the strength of January business, which has become a major adult filmgoing period.

Holiday weekend on “Men” was a bit below expectations with $ 8,730,669 in 2, 146 bijous, taking the Castle Rock feature soaring past $ 100 million to $ 101.6 million to date. It has many miles to go before it retires from active duty.

With one or two other exceptions, however, the Yuletide features are finito.

Newcomers gratefully stepped into the breech, most prominently BV’s “Alive,” which went over like finely seasoned steak tartar, grossing $ 8,624,292 on just 1,132 screens–an excellent $ 7,619 per screen.

Other two newcomers, Col’s “Nowhere to Run” and MGM’s “Body of Evidence,” were on many more screens, capitalizing on their exploitation nature. The Jean-Claude Van Damme actioner kicked and chopped its way to $ 8,203,255 on 1, 745 screens, about $ 4,700 a theater–good, but not great.

However, if it performs along the lines of the martial artist’s recent efforts, Columbia should see its investment returned.

“Evidence,” starring Madonna as the “Body” in question, may have already shot its wad. On 2,052 screens, the poorly reviewed film seduced enough voyeurs to flash $ 7,365,429. The per-screen of $ 3,593, however, is not exactly climactic stretched over four days, and long-term prospects are not encouraging.

But Universal’s doing 20-20 business on “Scent of a Woman,” which with $ 6, 350,900 in its second wide-release weekend in 1,211 houses confirmed early predictions that it would be a box office player. Total so far is $ 16.5 million.

“The Bodyguard” just keeps rolling along with $ 4,840,996 more collected over the weekend on 1,705 screens, helping it cross the $ 100 million mark ($ 102.2 million to date). With the $ 100 million-plus the Kevin Costner/Whitney Houston romance has collected overseas, Warner Bros. has a major profit-maker here.

Less so, but still respectable, is WB’s “Forever Young,” which added $ 4,295, 016 to its take over the weekend on 1,625 screens, bringing it to $ 45.4 million to date.

Fox’s “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” isn’t quite dead yet, based on its $ 4 ,173,149 over the weekend on 1,775 screens (down sharply from 2,166). The potent sequel’s $ 156.8 million to date, when added to foreign grosses of $ 137 million , brings it close to $ 300 million worldwide. That offsets Fox’s over-and-out disappointments “Hoffa” ($ 1.6 million over the weekend and just $ 22 million to date) and “Toys” ($ 563,151 and $ 21 million so far).

TriStar/Carolco’s “Chaplin” will have to fight to get to $ 10 million based on past weekend’s $ 2,069,280 on 1,080 screens and a dreadful $ 6.7 million in two weeks of wide release.

WB’s reduced admissions for patrons under 21 didn’t give the necessary boost to “Malcolm X,” which grossed just $ 816,617 over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend, bringing its more-than-respectable take to date to $ 47.1 million.

Platform entries entered good to amazing performances over the weekend. U’s “Lorenzo’s Oil” made its first leap to 102 screens and showed $ 752,137 for the effort. Fox snuck “Used People” on Saturday, preparing for Friday’s wide release. Past weekend in 52 houses did a still-strong $ 546,537.

But the real star here is Miramax’s “The Crying Game,” now on 171 screens with a lustrous $ 1,810,650 and $ 8.6 million to date, indicating it should be the top indie grosser since New Line’s “The Player.”

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