‘Jurassic’ roars on; ‘Sleepless’ keeping competish awake nights

Universal’s “Jurassic Park” scored the hat trick, racking up a third consecutive weekend as the undisputed box office leader with a three-day gross of $ 27,690,520.

This is a film of amazing resilience. Still racking up five-digit per-screen averages of $ 11,330, it slipped an extremely modest 28% from last weekend.

At this rate, the monster hit — currently with a cume of $ 171.1 million — should amass $ 200 million by its 23rd day of release. That’s nine days faster than the current speed champ, Warner Bros.’ 1989 pic “Batman.”

“Jurassic’s” success is so unique that it occupies its own niche in the marketplace. So, brush it aside and focus on the rest of the pack.

The major new films both were recipients of strong opening response. Warner Bros.’ “Dennis the Menace” surprised the pundits with a $ 9,331,139 gross. Its averages of $ 4,475 meant a lot of kids’ tickets were sold.

But the big news was TriStar’s “Sleepless in Seattle,” which surpassed all expectations with a booming $ 17,253,733. Although “Sleepless” was sold as a small romantic comedy, little films do not open with 1,579 playdates and record averages of $ 10,927. At least, they never have before.

The flip side to these two successful launches is the negative impact each had on other pictures in the marketplace. There’s still no indication that new product has expanded the audience base. All that’s happened is that certain key films are shifting where people are spending their movie dollars.

So, what suffers?

Well, in the case of “Dennis,” and with the compliance of “Jurassic Park,” the loser is Columbia’s “Last Action Hero.” Kids may not care what the New York Times had to say about Schwarzenegger or the screen’s new Mitchell family. But somehow — perhaps via word of mouth — they have come to a decision that has drained millions of dollars of potential revenue from Arnold’s latest blockbuster-wannabe.

Biz stealing

Similarly, “Sleepless” sapped business from Touchstone’s “What’s Love Got to Do With It.” The latter film had been slowly expanding its run, to great results. But industry analysts wondered about the wisdom of going wide with the Tina Turner screen bio on the same weekend as the debut of what seemed to be the pre-ordained sleeper hit of the summer.

Obviously, the two films do not have exactly the same demographics. The crunch comes because “What’s Love” needs to expand its audience. That widening means getting the crowd going off to “Sleepless”

Again, several million dollars in potential revenue switched hands — the audience did not expand.

TriStar gains

“Sleepless” grosses also meant that TriStar leapfrogged over Miramax in market-share rankings to claim 5.2% and seventh place. Next week, the company will overtake New Line.

While logic says profit margins are more important than market shares to studios, there is a lot of gnashing of teeth going on in Burbank. And the race for top spot is very close.

Final standings

The standings as of Sunday night were: Warner Bros. with $ 366.2 million, followed by Disney with $ 361.1 million and Universal with $ 360.8 million.

The maker of “Jurassic Park” will surpass the others within days, but can Universal hold the crown?