Pic Pack Uneven At Record B.O.

The results of the long weekend show it easily set a four-day Christmas holiday B.O. record as the Yule marketplace swelled to better than $91 million. And while overall business was buoyant, clearly some films were performing better than the norm and others simply were not.

The frame generally reflected recent seasonal trends. Lighter fare outperformed action pix, and specialized product-playing in major urban centers-was sustained by a devoted niche audience. The box office for the first three days of the four-day weekend was roughly comparable to business for Christmas 1992, which peaked at better than $60 million.

Not unexpectedly, New Line’s “Dumb and Dumber” edged ahead of the pack with a $15.6 million frame, in part because it was the only flat-out comedy in the market.

Though both Universal’s “Street Fighter” and Disney’s live-action “The Jungle Book” did well, their respective potential was blunted because their appeal was to the same segment: teenage males.

There were similar head-to-head battles taking place between MGM’s “Speechless” and Paramount’s “I.Q.,” while the comparable appeal of Columbia’s “Little Women” and Fox’s “Nell” produced respective results significantly lower than either studio expected for the prime holiday Dec. 26.

Somewhere in the scramble, a handful of films attempted to buck the odds. They are the serious few squarely aimed at a sophisticated, adult audience-namely Warner Bros.’ “Disclosure” and Miramax’s “Ready to Wear (Pret-a-Porter).”

The year-end rarely supports more than a couple of mature-themed pix playing in better than a handful of situations. Current fare, including Paramount’s “Nobody’s Fool” and TriStar’s “Legends of the Fall,” has taken a more traditional route of dipping a toe in the marketplace, praying for great reviews and expanding in mid-January, based on critical heat and Golden Globe and Oscar potential.

The wide releases need to quickly cross over into the main-stream, and “Disclosure” certainly had the earmarks of a pic with major commercial potential.

Considerably more problematic is the fate of “Nell.” The examples of a conventional drama in wide release for the holidays are few.

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