‘Titanic’ lifts B.O. to high water

Paramount and 20th Century Fox’s “Titanic” sailed into uncharted box office territory over the weekend, setting a December weekend record and pushing the overall box office to a historic three-day high.

The disaster pic — which has already been afloat nearly three times as long as the ship itself — grossed $35.5 million in its sophomore frame. That beat the previous December record of $32.9 million set by “Scream 2’s” opening just two weeks earlier.

The top-60 films totaled an astounding $145.4 million, up 27% from Christmas 1996 when New Line’s “Michael” trumpeted a $17.4 million debut and “Jerry Maguire” inked a $14 million sophomore frame.

The market managed to expand a healthy 46% over the pre-Christmas weekend’s already robust $99.3 million total. That helped “Titanic” rise 24% over its $28.6 million maiden voyage a week earlier.

The biggest three-day weekend previously was the July 5, 1996, frame when “Independence Day” blasted off to $50.2 million, pushing the overall B.O. to $126.5 million.

“Titanic” which has earned a massive $88.4 million in its first 10 days, now appears on course to gross between $180 million and $200 million. A strong showing on Oscar night could push the number even higher.

To date, the highest-grossing three-hour-plus film is 1990’s “Dances With Wolves,” which collected $184.2 million.

Despite “Titanic’s” looming presence, MGM’s “Tomorrow Never Dies” continued to do excellent business. The Bond sequel chalked up $20.5 million in 2,807 situations for a muscular $7,296 average.

With a 10-day cume of $62 million, the Pierce Brosnan-starrer appears likely to finish somewhere near the $106.1 million total of its 1995 predecessor, “Goldeneye.”

Sony’s “As Good as It Gets” got off to a promising start, grossing $12.6 million in 1,572 theaters, or $8,020 per screen. The only adult-oriented comedy in the market should continue to perform well as older moviegoers who’ve already seen “Titanic” or “Tomorrow Never Dies” look for something else to watch.

All three films should enjoy relatively smooth sailing for the next few months. Unlike in 1997, few high-profile releases are scheduled for the first quarter of next year.

Miramax’s “Jackie Brown” bowed to a solid $9.3 million in just 1,370 locations, or $6,783 per site. The opening is almost exactly the same as that of “Pulp Fiction,” director Quentin Tarantino’s previous outing.

But “Fiction” earned its money on a non-holiday weekend. And given the film’s daily decline in attendance over the weekend, it appears very unlikely to repeat “Fiction’s” $108 million final cume.

The weekend’s big losers were Warner Bros.’ “The Postman” and Disney’s “Mr. Magoo,” which each grossed slightly more than $5.2 million.

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