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‘Cliffhanger’ rock solid as competition scarce

It was relatively quiet on the box office front as TriStar/Carolco’s “Cliffhanger” continued to hold sway at the top of the charts.

In its second weekend, the Sylvester Stallone actioner toted up $ 12,152,400 and averages of $ 5,200. Best of all, Sunday business actually exceeded Friday’s gross to register a modest drop of 25% for the frame. That brings the film’s cume to $ 37,173,770 and the likelihood of $ 40 million prior to the arrival of Universal’s “Jurassic Park.”

Warner Bros.’ Whoopi Goldberg/Ted Danson comedy, “Made in America,” also had a strong second weekend of $ 7,483,403. It was off 19% from its debut with averages of $ 3,654 and a 10-day gross of $ 21,587,627.

Of course, the stamina of the top pictures was abetted by the absence of strong new product. Buena Vista continued to churn out releases. Hollywood Pictures opened “Guilty as Sin,” an uninspired thriller starring Don Johnson and Rebecca De Mornay, to a respectable $ 5,713,708 and third ranking.

Simultaneously, Touchstone’s comedic “Life With Mikey” registered with a thud to the tune of $ 3,606,279 and a seventh-place debut. The Michael J. Fox outing about an agent with a precocious child performer was so soft, rumors have circulated that the actor is seriously eyeing a return to TV.

Exhibitors and rival studios continue to scratch their heads over Disney’s decision to release 10 films this summer. With the two new entries and “Super Mario Bros.” in release, one wonders how Disney will be able to maintain screens and continue to introduce new product throughout the summer.

The other major news of the season is the oft-repeated theory that there is an adult audience out there of some significance.

The most obvious proof of the claim are pictures such as Goldwyn’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and Miramax’s “Like Water For Chocolate.” After five weeks of release, Kenneth Branagh’s latest Bardian exercise has earned more than $ 4 million from fewer than 100 screens.

Similarly, on fewer than 200 screens, the Mexican “Like Water” has managed to ring up $ 8.2 million in ticket sales without anyone really taking notice. On an even smaller scale such films as Sony Classics’ “The Story of Qiu Ju,” Fine Line’s “Wide Sargasso Sea” and Kino’s “Visions of Light” have been playing steadily on a limited number of screens to consistent business.

The situation for specialized, and particularly foreign-language, films is still nowhere near the vibrance of earlier halcyon eras of a decade and two decades ago. However, signs are that that sector of the audience is hungry and growing.