New year brings good news at B.O.

What a difference a week makes.

Seven days ago, exhibitors were ready to jump into a popcorn vat and die hot and buttered. But that was back in the dark days of 1993. The new year got off to a fast start as evidenced by the gross of the top nine pictures in the marketplace.

Last week, they collectively generated $ 47.1 million. The same nine titles were responsible for bringing in $ 69.9 million during this weekend — an overall increase of 48%.

Fox’s indomitable “Mrs. Doubtfire” reclaimed the box office crown with a weekend grossLimited-run pix from indies and majors fare well. Story, page 32.

f $ 16,346,568. That provided the film with a 74% boost and a $ 7,031 average. “Doubtfire” cleared $ 100 million on Wednesday, and with a current cume of $ 122.5 million and good, sturdy legs, it could wind up surpassing all projections.

Fox also provided the sole wide release for the frame with “Ghost in the Machine.” It landed in 10th slot with a rather blah $ 1,854,431 and a $ 1,799 average.

The other freshmen were exclusive preems of Universal’s “In the Name of the Father” and Savoy’s “Shadowlands.” The two prestige items appeared to connect: “Father” grossed $ 109,805 for a $ 27,451 average and “Shadowlands” had an $ 81, 082 B.0. and $ 27,027 average.

The lesson here is that there are no sure things. The exhibition no-brainer lineup included hits “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “The Pelican Brief.” It also featured such “naturals” as “Addams Family Values,””A Perfect World” and “Sister Act 2,” which performed below expectations.

On the other hand, sages predicted bad news from “Beethoven’s 2nd,” the old hat and gloves of “Grumpy Old Men” and anything Western. Most of the trend-guessing was wrong. One distribution source claimed he’d never seen anything quite as ferocious as the methods employed by some studios to keep several flagging pictures on the screen. The ultimate supplier’s threat was invoked: Pull my picture and you’ll never get another film from me. And, with a sole exception, all the buyers complied.

“No chain wants to be off-service with a studio,” the defiant major chain rep stated. “I’d like to work with everyone, but frankly there’s just too much grief involved with these cowboys.”

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