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B.O.: ‘MICHAEL’ TAKES WING

Stars drive holiday take; 'Jerry' 2nd

An angel descended from Hollywood heaven on Christmas in the form of Turner/New Line’s “Michael,” which led the box office field with $5.6 million on its opening day.

Audiences were definitely guided by stars, as the Travolta fantasy was followed in the daily rankings by Tom Cruise in Columbia’s “Jerry Maguire” at $3.9 million ($43.6 million cume) and Paramount’s “Beavis and Butt-head Do America” with $3 million ($27.4 million cume).

The biggest noise among the limited releases was made by Hollywood Picture’s “Evita,” with capacity biz of $71,300 at Hollywood’s Cinerama Dome and Manhattan’s Lincoln Square in its first day.

“Michael” doubled the biz of the top grosser on Christmas Day 1995, “Waiting to Exhale,” while the holiday’s top 10 titles outpaced last year by 22%, racking up slightly more than $22 million collectively.

In addition to “Michael” – which opened with 2,141 playdates – the other wide Yule opener was Par’s “The Evening Star,” the continuation of “Terms of Endearment.” The Shirley MacLaine-Jack Nicholson starrer debuted in 1,262 theaters with a first day of $1.1 million, ranking ninth overall.

Beginning with the holiday eve, seven films preemed on a limited basis and the critically acclaimed “Shine” expanded from 10 to 207 screens. The latter grossed roughly $400,000 for a solid $2,000 per-screen daily average.

Miramax’s “The English Patient,” which had previously announced plans to add 200 playdates Wednesday, instead held fast at 612 theaters for a $450,000 B.O.

Castle Rock and Sony’s “Ghosts of Mississippi” picked up $60,000 in 21 haunts.

Leading the other exclusives was Par’s “Mother” which grossed $54,000 from six screens. Also registering well in initial forays were a Columbia pair: “The People vs. Larry Flynt” scored with $50,000 at five sites and Castle Rock’s “Hamlet” doffed $31,000 from exclusives in three cities.

The remaining trio of upscale pics had more problematic debuts.

Gramercy opened both “The Portrait of a Lady” and “I’m Not Rappaport” Dec. 24, with the former grossing $8,000 its first day on three screens, followed by $10,000 on Wednesday. “Rappaport,” at two sites, grossed slightly more than $1,000 Tuesday and rose to $3,000 on Christmas Day. Columbia/Castle Rock’s Irish-set political drama “Some Mother’s Son” also rang up $3,000 on the holiday in three outings.

Trailing “Michael,” “Jerry” and “Beavis and Butt-head” among the top grossers were Miramax’s “Scream” ($2 million), Touchstone’s “The Preacher’s Wife” ($1.7 million); Fox’s “One Fine Day” ($1.6 million), Disney’s “101 Dalmatians” ($1.5 million), Warner Bros.’ “Mars Attacks” ($1.2 million), Par’s “Evening Star” ($1.1 million) and Warner Bros.’ “My Fellow Americans ($1 million).

With one week remaining in the year, the domestic B.O. is about 8% ahead of 1995, with a cume of $5.55 billion; it continues to be on track to finish with roughly $5.7 billion.

(Andrew Hindes contributed to this report.)

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