‘Pelican’ flying high

Warner Bros.’ “The Pelican Brief” swooped down and collected a brimming beakful worth $ 16,864,404 in its debut weekend.

That easily made the legal thriller the top film in the marketplace and continued the Burbank studio’s potent commercial streak. In addition to setting a December record for a non-sequel, “Pelican” was the seventh-biggest opener of the year. Its average of $ 8,462 was also very classy.

With 12 days still uncounted on the 1993 ledger, Warner Bros. tops all other distribs by almost $ 100 million and should finish with about $ 900 million for ’93.

It will be the studio’s third consecutive year as market-share champ; Buena Vista has as many bridesmaid finishes.

Universal, which has been running third, had an impressive weekend thanks to its launches of “Beethoven’s 2nd” and the exclusive preems on “Schindler’s List.” The dogged sequel got a big Sunday boost to rank fourth for the frame with $ 6,017,225. Its 20% decline from the original weekend’s opening is a very healthy sign. The picture had an average of $ 2,970.

“Schindler’s List,” in just 25 sites, earned $ 656,636 in its first weekend, placing 13th for the weekend. It also had solid Sunday business, but the much-lauded drama has been playing well on a daily basis since its Wednesday debut. Its five-day cume is $ 935,263.

Plenty of platforms

The market was also chock-a-block with specialized and first-plank platform releases cropping up in selected venues. Paramount’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” squeezed out $ 74,421 in six sites for an OK $ 12,404 average. The film is the type of small, intimate project that the studio doesn’t traditionally handle well — as evidenced most recently with the South African-set “Bopha!”

Fine Line’s “Naked” had a modest first exposure of $ 36,463. The festival favorite didn’t really connect with the specialized crowd, judging from its $ 9, 116 average.

Like other limited highbrow entries, “Naked” is stepping out initially in New York and Los Angeles. And as with similar elite pix — including MGM’s “Six Degrees of Separation”– it’s having a considerably better response on the East Coast.

Franco and ‘Ernest’

The other two new entries were Warner Bros.’ “Wrestling Ernest Hemingway” and Sony Classics’ “Germinal.” The first film grossed a little less than $ 15,000 from three screens while the French foreign-language Oscar submission did a tad more than $ 14,000 in a single venue.

“Germinal” is doing a locked week engagement and its numbers are impressive considering that no more than a bare-bones campaign is being waged … for the moment.

Through Sunday the 1993 box office grew to $ 4.77 billion. It’s going to be down to the wire as far as setting a new annual record. The top dollar year was in 1990, with the total take amounting to $ 4.93 billion.

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