New November record set at $573.9 mil

It was a November to remember as the monthly box office set a new frame record of $573.9 million. Spurred by dynamic openings on four consecutive weekends, the monthly gross increased by roughly 10% from the previous high mark, set in 1994. B.O. was up 18% from one year ago.

For icing on the cake, admissions also hit a new height, with an estimated 124.7 million tickets sold. That bests the record ’94 performance level by 5.5%.

The month was bookended by potent Buena Vista debuts of the Mel Gibson actioner “Ransom” and the Thanksgiving family treat “101 Dalmatians.” The company was a clear market share winner with 28.7% of the pie on grosses of $165 million. “Ransom” was November’s top individual performer.

Big pix lead charge

Event pictures dominated the period, with the top 10 movies accounting for more than 75% of monthly results. The absence of a commercial juggernaut saw MGM/UA drop to a blip on the radar screen and Universal fall off the map completely.

Nonetheless, it also turned out to be a vibrant month for specialized and platform releases. Among films demonstrating initial and continuing strength were Goldwyn/Alliance’s “Big Night,” October/Alliance’s “Secrets & Lies,” Fine Line’s “Shine” and “Swingers” and Miramax’s “The English Patient.”

Through the end of November, 1996 domestic box office had surpassed $5.2 billion and should exceed 1995′s $5.35 billion cume around Tuesday. The current momentum virtually guarantees a final tally north of $5.7 billion.

Following “Ransom,” the top individual performers (in descending order) were: Warner Bros.’ “Space Jam,” Paramount’s “Star Trek: First Contact,” Buena Vista’s “101 Dalmatians,” Fox’s “Romeo & Juliet,” TriStar’s “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” Fox’s “Jingle All the Way,” New Line’s “Set It Off,” Warner Bros.’ “Sleepers” and TriStar’s “High School High.”

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