‘Fugitive’: big B.O. thriller

“The Fugitive” is huge, “Meteor Man” is streaking by fast, and “My Boyfriend’s Back,” but nobody noticed. Additionally, “The Wedding Banquet” proves a hearty feast while “House of Angels” and “La Vie de Boheme” are not quite heavenly.

Warner Bros.’ “The Fugitive” always had the smell of a winner. It arrived in theaters Friday with great word-of-mouth, terrific reviews and mucho anticipation. It also delivered to the tune of $ 23,758,855, or averages of $ 10 ,153. The film, which had a torturous development history, had obvious assets once production began: a big star and source material that needs no explanation. There was simply no way that the film would not open.

The question became just how big a first weekend was in store for the studio. Consider too that the marketplace isn’t exactly wantingfor thrillers. Since “Jurassic Park’s” debut, thrillers have held the top spot consistently. Matching the $ 15 million earned last weekend by “Rising Sun” would have been respectable for “The Fugitive,” and $ 20 million impressive. Its opening figure raises the question of how much larger it might have been in a less-crowded marketplace.

Almost anything else out there was bound to suffer by comparison. In fact, the other incoming wide releases barely created a ripple. Hyphenate Robert Townsend’s “The Meteor Man” preemed for MGM with $ 2,643,091 for averages of $ 2 ,493. It was an extremely tame opening and might have been even milder had it not attracted an ethnic audience.

Touchstone’s “My Boyfriend’s Back” arrived with $ 1,465,476. The nadir of the Disney summer wound up with averages of $ 1,258. While WB’s confidence in “The Fugitive” was obviously high, the release of “Boyfriend” represents the low — the studio lined up the dates and allowed this teen comedy to escape.

Although Townsend hit the trail to stir up interest in his film, the other studio films — including Warner Bros.’ three-screen launch of “That Night”– stepped aside in anticipation of both the literal and figurative train wreck of “The Fugitive.” But the thriller was not the only new film making news in the marketplace.

Quietly and effectively, Goldwyn set up all the right elements for a seven-screen debut of the indie light drama “The Wedding Banquet.” It scored almost $ 20,000 a screen –$ 134,870 to be exact.

Arthouse B.O. good

Two other specialized outings also opened with single screen engagements but not nearly the same impact. Sony Classics’ Swedish-language “House of Angels” ventured out with $ 6,751, and the Finnish “La Vie de Boheme,” via Kino, grossed $ 6,200. It would be presumptuous to write off either film. Certainly both will need a major push in the marketplace.

“Wedding Banquet” would appear to have the momentum to become an arthouse hit , especially since the specialized arena has changed markedly in the past two years. Its core audience is identifying itself faster and more demonstrably; all one has to do is point to “Much Ado About Nothing” or “Like Water for Chocolate” as current paradigms, which immediately struck a chord.

Today’s rarity in the specialized field is the picture that slowly builds an audience and reputation. After decades of ups and downs, moviegoing outside the mainstream has become just as ferocious, fickle and unforgiving as its high-stakes alternative.

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