It’s ‘The Fugitive’ by a mile

The summer may be over — as a distributor noted over the weekend — but no one bothered to notify Warner Bros. The studio’s “The Fugitive” continued to lead the way with a boffo $ 14.3 million weekend. On Saturday it sailed past the century mark, becoming the sixth fastest film in history to hit that milestone.

Six new films entered the marketplace with a significant number of screens, although collectively they didn’t add up to “The Fugitive’s” gross.

Columbia/Castle Rock’s “Needful Things” debuted second with an OK estimate of $ 5.3 million. Also encouraging was Warner Bros.’ launch of the Mel Gibson-directed “The Man Without a Face,” which ranked fourth with $ 4.1 million.

The remaining quartet looked like fast fades, with MGM’s “Son of the Pink Panther” finishing 14th with $ 1.3 million and, in the next two slots at $ 1.2 million, Hollywood Pictures’ “Father Hood” and Fox’s “Only the Strong.” Paramount’s “The Thing Called Love” had a less-than-blissful $ 460,000.

For the fourth consecutive week, the answer to the age-old question “Is there a doctor in the house?” was a resounding “Yes!” Dr. Kimble’s “Fugitive” run was a very hale $ 14.3 million, fluttering a mild 21%. With averages of $ 5,900 from 2,425 operating theaters, it has only to surpass “The Firm” to take second place for the summer. To date “The Fuge” is huge with $ 111 million.

The umpteenth adaptation of a Stephen King yarn, “Needful Things” had a decent, if unspectacular, $ 5.3 million preem to rank second. The ghoulish goings on scared up $ 2,700 averages from 1,963 haunts.

Universal’s “Hard Target” slowed down a considerable 54% to place third with $ 4.7 million. Audiences weren’t giving a Van Damme as the actioner cruised to $ 2,350 averages at 1,999 shooting ranges. It has a 10-day cume of $ 18.2 million.

It was a kinder second weekend for TriStar’s “Manhattan Murder Mystery,” which dipped 25% to finish 13th with $ 1.5 million. The Woody Allen comedy held well with $ 5,130 averages from 273 locations and a cume of $ 4.5 million.

On the other side of the spectrum was New Line’s “Surf Ninjas,” with a $ 600, 000 gross, $ 540 averages and a 70% B.O. plunge.

Warner Bros. got a two-day head start on the competition with “The Man Without a Face” and generated midweek business that shamed most of the newcomers. For the weekend it earned $ 4.1 million to finish fourth. Averaging $ 4,740 from 865 playdates, the drama received good critical response but will require careful handling to remain strong in the marketplace. To date it’s earned $ 6 million.

Overall weekend business slipped by another 14% with just a week left in the prime summer season. The three-day period generated enough lucre to propel seasonal revenues to more than $ 2 billion for the first time in history. The frame surpasses last year’s comparable weekend — when “Honeymoon in Vegas” preemed to $ 7.3 million — by 34%.

However, the buoyant B.O. appears to have little to do with new product. MGM’s attempt to revive one of its oldest franchises was a bust as “Son of the Pink Panther” grossed about $ 1.3 million from 983 lairs. The cat was humbled by $ 1,360 averages and 14th ranking.

Disney’s summer of diminishing returns saw “Father Hood” finish 15th with $ 1 .2 million. The Patrick Swayze starrer appeared not to have a ghost of a chance with $ 1,860 averages from 646 outings.

A nose behind with a comparable $ 1.2 million was Fox’s martial arts action-drama “Only the Strong.” The title proved mere irony with $ 720 averages from 1,668 sites.

Paramount sidestepped most major metropolitan areas with its country-music-themed “The Thing Called Love.” Audiences showed sophisticated tastes as it wound up with a tinny $ 460,000 from 490 sites, averaging $ 940.

Specialized product entering the marketplace also had a generally tough time. Triton’s docu “The Last Party” with Robert Downey Jr. had a flat $ 5,000 on its solo Manhattan gig. A sliver better was MK2’s French import “Betty,” with $ 11, 000 from singles in New York and Los Angeles.

Best of the bunch was I.R.S. Media’s two-screen L.A. launch of the gender-bender comedy “Inside Monkey Zetterland,” which yukked up about $ 18,600. The pic, which preemed Wednesday, has a cume of $ 23,500.

Warner Bros.’ “The Secret Garden” continued to hold well with $ 3.2 million to rank fifth. The children’s classic was down 25% with $ 2,400 averages from 1, 332 arbors. Its cume is $ 18 million.

Still going is Universal’s “Jurassic Park,” which earned $ 2.9 million and sixth slot. Off 23% for the period, it averaged $ 1,970 from 1,469 engagements, for a total to date of $ 311.1 million.

Fox’s “Rising Sun” was a whisker behind in seventh with close to $ 2.9 million. The thriller averaged $ 2,020 from 1,433 investigations. Down 29%, it has rung up $ 52.7 million worth of tickets.

Columbia/Castle Rock’s “In the Line of Fire” finished eighth with $ 2.7 million. The assassination thriller fired up $ 1,830 averages from 1,472 sites. Its 21% drop brings its cume to $ 93.8 million.

Still wide awake in ninth was TriStar’s “Sleepless in Seattle” with $ 2.1 million. The romantic comedy continued to charm, down a mere 18% for $ 1,640 averages. Its 1,283 trysts brings its total to date to $ 109.2 million.

Warner Bros.’ “Free Willy” collared 10th with $ 2 million. Off 35% for the weekend, it averaged $ 1,330 from 1,505 playdates. It has a very splashy cume of $ 62.8 million.

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