The seasonal post-Super Bowl upswing, coupled with the arrival of two strong new entries, resulted in increased ticket sales for the first weekend in February. New Line’s cop-spoof “National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon I” led the charge, debuting on 1,972 screens with a projected debut of somewhere between $ 9 million and $ 10 million — depending on who’s doing the forecasting — and shoving Buena Vista’s “Aladdin” out of first place.
No less impressive was the second-place entrant, Warners’ period romance “Sommersby,” which registered more than $ 8 million on 1,432 screens.
Fox’s “The Vanishing,” third wide entry, got off to a tepid start with $ 5 million at most on 1,658 screens — only about $ 3,000 each — for a distant fourth behind “Aladdin’s” projected $ 7.2 million to $ 7.7 million.
The combo of potent new players, strong holdovers and two well-attended national sneaks propelled the top 10 films to approximately $ 48 million, about 12% better than last year. With several new arrivals and the President’s Day looming, box office totals could recover from an underwhelming January.
New Line got “Weapon” in a week ahead of Columbia’s “Groundhog Day,” tapping the currently bone-dry comedy market. While industry insiders say Friday-to-Saturday increases were modest, with the coming holiday weekend, NL’s distribution chief Mitch Goldman believes the company has a hit on its hands. And another possible franchise? “We can’t make that decision yet, not until we’ve looked at foreign and video,” says Goldman.
Warner Bros.’ “Sommersby” received generally upbeat critical word. And while its $ 8 million-plus debut may not have beat out “Loaded Weapon,” the romantic drama did have the best per-screen average of any national release — better than $ 5,500 a theater — on 1,432 screens.
Saturday and Sunday sneaks on BV’s live-action “Homeward Bound” goosed “Aladdin” about 20% from the previous weekend.
Saturday sneaks were 90% capacity, according to a Disney spokeswoman, which augues well for the film’s national release this coming weekend. On two screens, “Homeward” debuted to $ 60,000 over the weekend and $ 71,000 in five days.
A total in the $ 7.5 million area in its 13th weekend — about $ 3,500 a screen — attests to “Aladdin’s” unstoppability. The $ 165 million collected to date pulls it ahead of “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” and “Batman Returns” as 1992’s biggest hit. “Aladdin” is now virtually certain to hit $ 200 million, making it Disney’s top grosser of all time.
Also benefiting a bit from sneaks was Columbia’s “A Few Good Men,” which got a Saturday night push from “Groundhog Day” and ended the weekend about even with the previous weekend, about $ 4 million on 1,732 screens and is nearing $ 120 million. Col says “Groundhog” was 80% sold out and had a 65% definite recommend rate.
Sixth place went to the steady Universal comedy “Scent of a Woman” with around $ 3.8 million and almost $ 34 million to date.
BV’s “Alive” also held reasonably well with about $ 3.3 million for the weekend and $ 26 million after a month in release.
But TriStar’s “Sniper” took a 40% bullet, dropping it to $ 3.4 million on 1, 553 screens and $ 11.2 million in 10 days.
Even worse was U’s “Matinee,” which got its lights knocked out, dropping 44% to about $ 2 million on 1,144 screens and only about $ 6 million so far.
Fox’s “Used People” declined an additional 31% to $ 2 million and has taken in only $ 14.5 million to far.
Six-screen debut of BV’s “The Cemetery Club” was no better than $ 54,000 and $ 71,000 in five days. “Cemetery” widens this weekend.