‘MICHAEL’ FEATHERS B.O. NEST

Travolta pic takes $17.8 mil for weekend; 'Jerry' rigs No. 2

Turner and New Line’s “Michael” ascended to the top of the three-day Christmas weekend box office chart with an angelic $17.8 million studio-estimated gross.

The John Travolta starrer – the first and last production from the late Turner Pictures – alighted on 2,141 clouds for a lofty $8,314 average. In the five days since its Wednesday bow, the Nora Ephron-helmed fantasy has collected $28 million, setting a first-week record for a Christmas debut.

In second place, TriStar’s “Jerry Maguire” held fast with $14.3 million – up 9% from the previous frame – while Buena Vista’s “101 Dalmatians” remained in third with $11.8 million, a 69% jump. The live-action remake crossed the $100 million mark Saturday, finishing out the weekend with a projected cume of $104.5 million.

Last weekend’s B.O. champ, “Beavis and Butt-head Do America,” skidded to fourth place, dropping off 48%, to $10.4 million.

‘Scream’ into fifth

Rounding out the top five was Miramax/Dimension’s thrifty horror pic “Scream,” up 34% from its opening last weekend to $8.5 million, according to the company’s projections.

In sixth place, Fox’s “One Fine Day,” while up 29%, to $8.1 million, failed to get the huge post-Christmas boost the studio had hoped for. “I’m a little disappointed,” senior exec VP Tom Sherak said. “It’s not one of the two big Christmas movies, but hopefully it will play through January.”

Among a spate of limited Christmas openers, Buena Vista’s “Evita” stood alone as the per-screen leader with a staggering $200,000 in single New York and L.A. runs. The five-day cume for the Alan Parker-helmed bio-musical is $339,000.

Other prodigious Yuletide debuts included Columbia Pictures’ “The People vs. Larry Flynt” at $528,000 on 16 screens in nine cities, or $33,000 per centerfold. Castle Rock and Columbia’s “Hamlet” played to $90,000 on three stages in New York, L.A. and Toronto. The four-hour Shakespeare adaptation’s near-capacity business earned it an impressive $30,000 per-screen average.

Paramount’s “Mother” nurtured $136,000 from six New York and L.A. kitchens for a $22,666 average. The Albert Brooks-helmed comedy has delivered $226,000 since Wednesday.

‘Star’ light at B.O.

Less joyous tidings greeted Rysher and Paramount’s “The Evening Star.” The “Terms of Endearment” sequel landed in 10th place with $3.3 million on 1,265 for an unseasonably low $2,609 average. Cume is $5.3 million.

Castle Rock’s civil-rights drama “Ghosts of Mississippi” got off to a so-so start with $220,000 in 21 courtrooms, for a $10,500 average. The Rob Reiner-helmed picture, which has cumed $549,000 since its Wednesday opener, expands to 1,200 screens Friday.

Gramercy’s “The Portrait of a Lady” painted $105,500 on seven canvases in New York and L.A., or $15,070 per gallery. Jane Campion’s first feature since her breakout hit “The Piano” has cumed $132,500 since its L.A. debut Tuesday. Meanwhile, the company’s “I’m Not Rappaport” hobbled to $17,839 in three locations for a $5,946 average. Cume since Christmas Eve is $25,850.

Castle Rock’s Irish drama “Some Mother’s Son” picked up $94,000 in 14 demonstrations for a $6,714 average; cume: $120,000.

Fine Line’s “Shine” expanded well from 10 to 207 playdates, grossing $1.6 million for a still-powerful $7,797 average. Cume is $3.5 million to date.

Among holdovers, 20th Century Fox’s “The Crucible” earned $807,000 in 143 trials, enjoying only a modest Christmas weekend bump of 24%. The Arthur Miller adaptation averaged $5,646; cume after 33 days is $2.3 million.

‘Patient’ much better

Miramax’s “The English Patient” jumped 56%, to $2.6 million in 582 hospitals for a robust $4,467 average; cume is $22.7 million. In its second weekend, the company’s “Marvin’s Room” fell 22%, to $45,000 on six screens, or $7,500 per; cume’s $168,000.

Meeting on 1,975 screens, the George Clooney-Michelle Pfeiffer screwball comedy averaged $4,101; cume after 10 days is $19.5 million.

Similarly, BV’s “The Preacher’s Wife” didn’t catch fire with the post-Christmas crowd. Up 31% to $7.7 million, the Penny Marshall-helmed remake averaged a lukewarm $3,835 in 2,008 parsonages. After 17 days in release, cume is $28.4 million.

‘Mars’ adds to arsenal

Warner Bros.’ “Mars Attacks!” landed $5.1 million, a gain of just 9% over last weekend. In 1,955 invasions, the Tim Burton-helmed sci-fi genre homage averaged $2,610. After 17 days, the film has totaled $25.9 million.

WB’s “My Fellow Americans” perked up 47%, to $4.2 million in 1,915 first residences for a $2,193 average. Cume is $10.2 million.

No. 2-ranked “Jerry Maguire” grossed $14.3 million in 2,531 downs for a $5,650 average. With a cume of $60.6 million, the film has managed in less than three weeks to become Sony’s top grosser of 1996, surpassing “The Cable Guy’s” $60.2 million total.

BV’s “101 Dalmatians” did its $11.8 million business in 2,901 rooms for a $4,068 average.

Par and MTV Films’ “Beavis and Butt-head Do America” snickered in 2,379 theaters for a $4,372 average. Cume after 10 days is a solid $41.3 million.

Miramax/Dimension’s “Scream” thrilled audiences in 1,450 houses for a $5,862 average. After its second weekend the Wes Craven-helmed chiller has cumed $20.7 million.

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