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‘Gun’ fires weekend to ’94 high

Paramount’s “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” came in blazing, clearing $ 13,216,531 in its opening weekend.

Sure, it’s early in the year, but to date that ranks as the best weekend debut of 1994. On a per-print basis — and Paramount is the sole studio to report that way — the high jinks had a solid $ 5,598 average. If the studio employed the more common method of counting based upon locations, the picture’s average would be in the vicinity of $ 7,300.

While there’s plenty of good news, there are also telltale signs that are less encouraging. “Gun’s” daily fluctuations presage the likelihood of a big dip for its second weekend.

The alarming aspect is how this film’s ultimate box office could affect studio attitude toward the franchise business. In recent months, sequels to such films as “The Addams Family,””My Girl,””Wayne’s World” and “Sister Act” have grossed less than soothsayers had predicted.

None in that quartet came close to the industry rule of thumb that sequels usually do 60% of an original. “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit” will wind up grossing 45% in its domestic release, while “My Girl 2” dips way down to 30% of its inspiration’s B.O.

The sole recent exception is Universal’s “Beethoven’s 2nd,” which will tap out with a domestic gross close to 90% of the first dog tale.

Sequelitis

Hollywood may just have cooked its perennial golden goose. Regardless of favorable word of mouth or positive reviews –“Naked Gun 33 1/3” has had both — it’s difficult to come to any conclusion other than that the public has become very skeptical of the entertainment value of sequels.

The test will truly arrive next year with new outings for other than comedy or family-oriented material. Some heavyweight franchises including “Batman, “”Beverly Hills Cop,””Die Hard” and “Lethal Weapon” are hoping their past commercial muscularity has not gone flabby.

New Line Cinema’s “Monkey Trouble” also opened wide and finished the frame in third spot with $ 4,523,597. Its $ 3,204 average might appear deceptively soft. However, “Monkey” is playing very heavily preteen and, while that won’t send the numbers through the roof, it still translates to a large body count. That should bode very well for its ancillary value, particularly video sales.

Miramax, via its Dimension label, demonstrated little faith in its thriller “Mother’s Boy.” The picture received a modest 140 playdates and wound the weekend with $ 318,332 and an unfavorable $ 2,274 average.

‘Paper’ unfolds

Conversely, Universal mounted a massive weekend sneak to add awareness to its five-screen platform of “The Paper.” The Ron Howard ensemble piece looked mighty with $ 175,507 and a $ 35,101 average.

Fine Line stepped out with Roman Polanski’s “Bitter Moon” and its six U.S. dates racked up a $ 6,333 average.

Canada, where it debuted a week earlier, the film has slipped a marginal 17% in its second weekend.

Max Films made a concerted media push for Denys Arcand’s “Love and Human Remains,” debuting in 24 situations. But the fest fave didn’t translate well commercially, grossing $ 53,050 for a $ 2,211 average.

Other fest faves in single-screen commercial debuts looked promising. Strand’s Sundance hit “Grief” launched in San Fran with $ 15,244 in three days, while Goldwyn’s black comedy “Suture” finished its first frame with $ 11,706. However, most impressive was Kino’s Film Forum preem of the three-hour docu “The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl,” which rang up $ 9,711 in the complex’s small hall.

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