Weekend B.O. poetry for Singleton and Col

Just when the marketplace seems as predictable as the Oscars, along comes “Poetic Justice” to shake up the day.

The John Singleton-directed screen debut of Janet Jackson opened gangbusters with $ 12.1 million to lead the weekend fray. On the flip side, Paramount’s “Coneheads” was not as potent as pundit predictions with a sixth-place $ 7 million. Touchstone’s “Another Stakeout” was watching the rest of the pack in ninth with $ 5.5 million.

“Poetic’s” strong debut surprised its studio, Columbia Pictures, which had optimistically predicted it would finish second to its ongoing “In the Line of Fire.” Tracking had ranked the urban romance high with young women and the ethnic audience but obviously the film drew in other segments of the audience.

“It played to a young audience across the board,” said Columbia distribution chief Jeff Blake. “We could see it had enormous appeal and would open well. It just opened better than expected.”

“Poetic” also spurred a mini-controversy when the Cineplex Odeon chain decided not to open the film on its first weekend at its Universal City flagship (Daily Variety, June 30). Industry sources were shocked when the chain issued a statement saying in part, “The theater is programmed with an upscale demographic to make sure that CityWalk’s environment is kept safe with a family atmosphere.”

However, the strong reaction had less to do with social issues, and people emphasized the insanity of revealing business practices with such frankness. Cineplex Odeon decided to avoid the first weekend, when historically violent incidents have occurred, and will open the Singleton picture there Wednesday.

“Poetic Justice” preemed with averages of $ 9,510, which compares almost precisely with the filmmaker’s earlier “Boyz N the Hood.” However, its continued strength could be in jeopardy as Saturday business fell to under $ 4 million from an opening day of $ 4.4 million.

Paramount had a disappointing $ 7 million debut on “Coneheads,” which ranked sixth. The “Saturday Night Live” refugees had the benefit of a great marketing campaign and a tremendous awareness factor but simply couldn’t get people to line up for the picture. It had a slight bump of 7% Friday to Saturday and finished with dull averages of $ 3,540 from 1,978 prints.

The other debutante — Touchstone’s “Another Stakeout”– actually showed more signs of longevity than the other new films in the marketplace despite a ninth-place, $ 5.5 million debut. The cops-and-robbers comic sequel bumped up about 25% on Saturday, earning weekend averages of $ 4,640 from 1,185 vistas.

Columbia also had reason to smile with its second-place slot for the Castle Rock thriller “In the Line of Fire” at $ 11.4 million. The Clint Eastwood starrer is hanging tough and may be, along with “Sleepless in Seattle,” Sony’s second picture this summer to reach $ 100 million without ever ranking first in the marketplace. It slipped just 13% to average $ 5,350 in 2,129 playdates. After three weekends its cume is $ 54.3 million.

Paramount’s “The Firm” dropped 25% for the frame for a third-place, $ 10 million finish. The legal thriller averaged $ 4,180 from 2,393 dockets. Its $ 112.9 million cume ranks it second, year to date.

The overall business picture continued to be buoyant with a solid increase of 5% from the prior weekend. It was ahead some 55% of the comparable period of 1992 when Columbia’s “Mo’ Money” debuted to similar numbers as “Poetic” with $ 12.2 million. The pace continues to better the record summer of 1989.

Warner Bros. added about 450 dates on “Free Willy” and whaled into fourth with $ 8.6 million. The family drama jumped about 9% and secured averages of $ 4 ,440 from 1,937 aquariums. After 10 days of release it has $ 22.6 million.

Universal’s “Jurassic Park” refused to become extinct with a fifth-place, $ 8 .2 million. Its 25% decline gave no indication of a quick trip to the tar pits as it racked up averages of $ 3,480 from 2,355 engagements. Entering its seventh weekend with $ 270.7 million, it ranks fourth among all-time domestic grossers.

TriStar’s “Sleepless in Seattle” was lucky number seven with $ 5.7 million. The enduring romantic comedy snoozed just 22% in its fifth weekend for alert averages of $ 3,530 from 1,615 chambers. It has a cume of $ 81.7 million.

Walt Disney’s “Hocus Pocus” dropped 31% in its sophomore outing to finish eighth with $ 5.6 million. The magic was fading from the comic sorcery as it conjured up averages of $ 3,800 from 1,472 houses. Its 10-day cume is $ 18.8 million.

Tenth in the batting order was Fox’s “Rookie of the Year” with an estimated $ 4.5 million. The baseball fantasy averaged $ 2,910 from 1,545 dugouts. The season to date has chalked up $ 33.5 million.

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