All’s quiet before a storm.

As has become an annual box office tradition, the bottom fell out of the market on the weekend before the Christmas movie season begins in earnest.

With no new wide pics entering theaters, only BV’s sophomore kidpic “Flubber” managed to float above the $10 million mark, dropping 58% to $11.3 million.

Total ticket sales came to less than half of the previous Friday-Sunday period, with nine out of the top 10 pics suffering losses of 45% to 62%. Only Sony’s stalwart “I Know What You Did Last Summer” escaped relatively unscathed, down 29%.

Oldies but goodies

The best holds among pics targeting older auds were Paramount’s “John Grisham’s The Rainmaker,” down 47% to $5.7 million in its third weekend; Universal’s “The Jackal,” off 47% to $4 million in its fourth weekend; and Warner Bros.’ “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” down 45% to $2.9 million in its third weekend.

Ticket sales for the 60 highest grossers totaled $51.6 million, a decline of 54% from the Friday-Sunday portion of the Turkey Day frame. Business was down 11% from the comparable weekend in 1996. It was, in fact, the worst overall showing since Sept. 15, 1995.

As was the case last year, a late Thanksgiving may be distracting potential moviegoers because it leaves them less time than usual for holiday shopping, decorating and partygoing.

Strategy questioned

Still, some observers questioned why Dimension didn’t fill the weekend’s wide-release void by moving “Scream 2″ up a week from its Dec. 12 slot. The relatively strong hold of “I Know What You Did Last Summer” confirmed that the picture’s core teen audience was least affected by holiday preparations.

But Miramax execs were reportedly concerned that the onslaught of Christmas openers would make it harder for the horror sequel to stay on screen until the lucrative Christmas-New Year’s period.

Also, the distribution execs couldn’t have predicted that Fox’s “Alien Resurrection,” would drop off as quickly as it did, offering little competition for “Scream’s” core teen audience.

Meanwhile, Miramax’s “Good Will Hunting” was right on target, shooting down $273,000 in seven L.A. and New York blinds, or nearly $39,000 per screen. Pic expands on Christmas Day.

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