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Kidpower propels nat’l B.O.

Never underestimate the powers of a 12-year-old.

Universal’s “Cop and a Half” confounded most industry analysts when it rose to the top of the charts last weekend with a gross of $ 6,027,285 from 1,603 playdates.

B.O. soothsayer the National Research Council had tracked the pint-size policeman to the $ 4 million neighborhood, critics trounced the tyke and everyone knew that Burt Reynolds’ fans and television coterie were “older.”

In the opposite corner, Walt Disney Pictures had “The Adventures of Huck Finn” (based on Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”). The advance was fabulous, it was a classic of American literature, a staple of the junior high English curriculum. There was no contest in anyone’s mind, so how did it finish second with $ 5,033,029 from 1,786 rafts?

The bottom line is to be found in answering this salient question: Who chooses the movie in your family?

A lot of industry trackers appear to have forgotten that this is a relatively moot point for anyone over 6 years old. A fair chunk of the post-teething generation actually cringes at the prospect of going to the movies with their parents. It’s also a pretty safe bet that most adults are more interested in getting the kids off to the movies than conducting a flash quiz on what’s going into the little darling’s heads.

So, the kids spoke and it was clear they wanted more or less the same thing adult audiences respond to — cheap jokes, gratuitous violence, sloppy sentiment and happy endings. Of course, it still has to be served up with a G or PG rating.

Guessing at teens

You can also bank on the fact that certain sophisticated 13- and 14-year-olds are probably pumping up the box office of “Groundhog Day,””CB4” and “Scent of a Woman,” and eschewing more meaningful fare on the order of “A Far Off Place.” The prospect too painful to ponder is just how many 15-year-olds are actually going to see the R-rated “Falling Down.”

For that matter, some adventurous 16- and 17-year-olds probably snuck into Warner Bros/Morgan Creek’s R-rated “The Crush.” It trailed “Huck Finn” by a whisker with $ 5,024,976 from 1,759 blind dates. Its $ 2,857 average was $ 39 better than the Twain tome and its yarn of a teenager’s lethal fixation on a slightly older man just might hold some appeal for slightly younger males.

The other major new entry, Fox’s “Jack the Bear,” while cen” tered around a family with a single father, had scant appeal to youth or adults. It opened in 1 ,065 playdates and grossed $ 2,219,891 for averages of $ 2,084. Fox is viewed as a studio in trouble and its most recent release is not helping to turn around that industry perception.

Since the early fall 1992 opening of “The Last of the Mohicans,” Fox has released eight titles and only one –“Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”– had a decent opening. The rest of the lineup has included “Toys,””Night and the City, “”The Vanishing” and “Hear No Evil.” Only Paramount, with 12 in a row between “Boomerang” and “Fire in the Sky,” surpasses Fox’s current record. Fox’s upcoming bright lights include “Hot Shots, Part Deux” and “Rising Sun” and the industry waits with baited breath Wednesday’s opening of Paramount’s “Indecent Proposal.”

It took Kevin Costner and 60 years to break Oscar’s shunning of the Western and just two years later Clint Eastwood shook up the box office. And now, at least eight oaters are in the hopper and more are on the way, pardner.

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