Full steam ahead

'Titanic' still oceanfront B.O. property

It was high five for Paramount’s “Titanic” as the megabudgeted pic continued to maintain a commanding lead at the domestic box office 32 days into its release.

The Golden Globe-winner for best picture (and three other categories) finished the four-day Martin Luther King holiday frame with $36 million, 5% better than its prior weekend performance. Its closest competition was Miramax’s “Good Will Hunting” with a $13.7 million B.O. for the period.

“Titanic’s” commercial stamina has been singular, reaching a $242 million cume at a near record speed despite its three-hour-plus running time. Its mix of art and spectacle should keep it in the forefront of moviegoing as Oscar season shifts into high gear with the announcement of nominees Feb. 10.

Nothing appears capable of slowing its pace. The past weekend arrival of four pop titles is the latest proof of the hit pic’s unsinkable nature.

The incoming quartet generally performed slightly below industry expectations. Warner Bros.’ high-gloss psychological thriller “Fallen” was third overall with $10.4 million and an unremarkable theater average of $4,250. The upscale horror genre item wasn’t drawing enough of either the core scare devotees or crossing over significantly to an older crowd.

Suffering a similar fate was Paramount’s “Hard Rain,” which poured into fifth spot with $8 million and a $3,800 average. The thriller had no more than drizzle draw and its future is definitely imperiled in light of the audience’s decision to opt for other films in the marketplace.

In contrast, Universal’s “Half Baked,” a raucous lowbrow comedy, hit a bull’s-eye with its prime appeal demographic. It ranked sixth with $7.7 million and a $4,500 average. However, the bad news was that it also demonstrated little appeal beyond its prime group, steadily declining daily at the B.O. throughout the weekend.

The biggest disappointment was Trimark’s “Star Kid” with a debut gross of $2.9 million and a theater average of $2,800. It ranked 11th overall. Aimed at the kid crowd, it seemed ideally timed as a result of a paucity of that sort of fare in the marketplace. However, it finished behind “Mouse Hunt” with very lackluster numbers.

Buena Vista’s expansion of “Kundun” to 439 theaters failed to catch fire with a weekend gross of $1.6 million and a $3,700 average. Martin Scorsese’s tale of the early years of the present Dalai Lama desperately needed critical support it failed to secure and now can expect no better than the type of business his “Last Temptation of Christ” garnered, about $10 million.

In exclusive playoff, October’s “The Apostle” had a disappointing $51,000 gross in its second coming at five theaters in L.A. It could pick up with a few key Oscar nominations. MGM’s “Live Flesh” was considerably more upbeat with $59,000 on two Manhattan screens for the Spanish import. Artistic License’s reissue of the seminal Bob Dylan doc “Don’t Look Back” took in a very pleasing $15,700 in its single-site re-debut.

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