HIGH POINTS: With its year-end domestic B.O. tally putting it ahead of the studio pack, Warner Bros.’ year as market-share leader was bolstered by a beleaguered doctor and a killer whale with an attitude. With Harrison Ford dodging Tommy Lee Jones in storm drains all over Cook County, Ill., “The Fugitive” culled boffo sums domestically and overseas.
WB’s Family Entertainment banner, meanwhile, started strong with the sleeper hit “Free Willy” and “Dennis the Menace.”
Other solid arrivals included the White House comedy “Dave,””Sommersby, “”Falling Down” and “Made in America.”
LOW POINTS: Warner did less well when talent veered from the tried and true. “A Perfect World,” starring Kevin Costner as an outlaw, managed only $ 27 million. Mel Gibson drew favorable reviews but unspectacular business in his directing bow in the title role of “The Man Without a Face.” Even less lucky was the Jeff Bridges tour de force in “Fearless.””Mr. Wonderful,” the Matt Dillon romancer with Anabella Sciorra, tanked, and the visceral homeless drama “The Saint of Fort Washington,” starring Dillon and Danny Glover, had little impact.
Even so, Warner Bros. brass feels the blend is a natural one for the future. “It’s part of what (WB chairman and chief executive officer) Bob Daly and I have been trying to do,” explained Terry Semel, the studio’s president and chief operating officer. “We have the ability to pursue all kinds of entertainment, all kinds of subject matters. Our basic philosophy is: Feel free to take chances — mix it up.”
RISING STARS: Under the command of production prexy Bruce Berman, sharp lieutenants like senior production VPs Tom Lassally and Lorenzo di Bonaventura have risen rapidly, with creatives like Courtenay Valenti following right behind. On the lot, Silver Pictures production VP Wendy Wanderman is getting a reputation around town as someone who secures good material quickly.
OVER AND OUT: Though the studio weathered the storm with stoic calm, 1993 saw the tortured exit of studio-based Silver Pictures prexy Michael Levy, who left under a lingering cloud of sexual harassment allegations.
OUTLOOK FOR ’94: The legal thriller “The Client,” the corporate satire “The Hudsucker Proxy,” the pistol-packing “Specialist ” and the sexy fangster pic “Interview With the Vampire” are all potentially strong B.O. contenders. There’s also a liberal sprinkling of smaller, socially aware titles like the AIDS dramas “Boys on the Side” and “Second Best.”
A big comedy ticket is likely to be the Macaulay Culkin starrer “Richie Rich, ” and the high-velocity genre is represented by the Quentin Tarantino-helmed “Natural Born Killers,” the Steven Seagal eco-actioner “On Deadly Ground” and “Wyatt Earp,” starring Kevin Costner. Also look for the studio to bolster its release slate from 30 to about 35 in the coming year.