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Weekend big chill freezes b.o.

Obviously the vast majority of North American moviegoers never heard of the postman’s creed. Deterred by the “blizzard of the century,” most of the Eastern seaboard decided to stay inside and ride out the storm close to family, hearth, fire and the cable box. It was good news for network ratings.

Meanwhile, the battle for box-office supremacy turned out to be more fiercely competitive for two incoming freshmen than anyone had reason to anticipate. Universal’s “CB4” proved to have that something extra with $ 6,122,450 in the bank. About 1,000 admissions behind, with revenues of $ 6,116,484, was Paramount’s “Fire in the Sky.”

The openings posted respective averages of $ 5,085 and $ 4,301, which have to be considered solid debuts in any first quarter. The weather cut down on the films’ potential and probably affected the separation between first and second place, which would have been more accentuated.

“CB4” was definitely playing to a hip, urban music crowd. Its core strength was in such snowbound centers as New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. Opening day, pre-cold front business came in with about $ 2.5 million nationally and exit polls were positive. In ordinary conditions one could have expected a weekend total between $ 7.5 million-$ 8 million.

“Fire in the Sky” was, as they say, “more heartland.” The astonishing aspect about the “culled from the headlines” saga of a man believed to have been abducted by aliens, was how swiftly it transformed from a perceived commercial zero to a much-anticipated release.

The blunted grosses for the top two pictures may, of course, accrue to midweek and second weekend business, However, it’s unlikely the full audience will ever be retrieved.

The impact of a natural disaster is rarely this significant. Early results from Saturday business suggested a weekend decline in the area of 7%. But when the last shovel was put to rest, it came up 12% down for the three days. Assessing trends and Friday admissions suggests somewhere between $ 5 million-$ 7 million in lost business, or more than 10% of the entire picture.

Given weekend results, one would have to draw the conclusion that the audience for specialized films is considerably heartier than the crew attending family-oriented fare. “The Crying Game,””Bad Lieutenant,””Indochine” and “El Mariachi” were just some of the films which had modest drops or even jumps over the weekend.

Conversely, Disney’s “Homeward Bound” and “Aladdin” had sharper drops than normal and the studio’s launch of “A Far Off Place” came in with the softish $ 3 ,522,836 for averages of $ 2,188. One could also say that any week in which three family films finish in the top 10 cannot be considered a sign of failing. The three films alone accounted for approximately 17% of weekend revenues.

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