August makes B.O. history

It was time to pull out the record books and write in a new figure as August earnings hit a new high of $ 580 million. Fueled by the dynamic performance of “The Fugitive,” revenues shot up 37% from a year earlier and were 49% better than August 1991.

“What you’re seeing here is a classic case of the effects of a product-driven marketplace,” said Fox senior veep Tom Sherak. “Traditionally studios don’t put strong product in August and the summer kind of peters out until Labor Day. We tried to change that a little bit with ‘Rising Sun’ and ‘Men in Tights’ and Warners is certainly succeeding in turning things around with ‘The Fugitive.’ ”

“The Fugitive’s”$ 111 million gross — the month’s best individual performance — accounted for a healthy slice of Warner Bros.’ lead in the marketplace. The studio snagged a 30.5% share from total earnings of $ 176.9 million. “Free Willy” and “The Secret Garden” were also solid earners for the studio, which is ranked first for 1993.

The company’s control of August is clear when compared to Fox’s 17% second-place ranking, which was earned on revenues of $ 98.3 million. Key performers for Fox include “Rising Sun” and “Robin Hood: Men in Tights.”

Universal, which has barrelled through the summer on the monster success of “Jurassic Park,” added two late-summer programmers –“Heart and Souls” and “Hard Target”– to its slate to finish third with 11.9% on revenues of $ 69.2 million.

June, July and August have seen market-share leaders dominated by the outstanding success of individual titles. “Jurassic” led June while “The Firm” was first in July and “The Fugitive” topped August.

With three companies reporting almost 60% of ticket sales, other key distribs were fighting for the rest of the pie. Four studios were clustered in fourth through eighth, separated by less than $ 8 million. They were, in descending order, Columbia, Buena Vista, Paramount and TriStar.

New Line was the clear indie winner with $ 19.2 million, largely based on the performances of “Jason Goes to Hell — The Final Friday” and “Surf Ninjas.” It accounted for a 3.3% market share.

The summer season is traditionally the worst time of year for specialized/indie product, because theaters are tied up for weeks playing major juggernaut releases. However, New Line’s performance and a strong showing from the Samuel Goldwyn Co. provided an unusually strong box office contribution from the sector in August. With approximately $ 30 million in revenues, indies leaped ahead of last year’s pace by about 137%.

After “The Fugitive,” other top titles for August, in descending order, were “Rising Sun,””Jurassic Park,””Free Willy,””In the Line of Fire,””The Firm, “”Robin Hood: Men in Tights,””Sleepless in Seattle,””Hard Target” and “The Secret Garden.”

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