April ‘Spaced’ out

New Line pic leads month to record B.O.

It came out of left field, but April B.O. set a record for the month of $425.8 million. With moviegoing flagging in the past two weeks, the frame’s 10% boost from 1997 was unexpected, and it bettered the prior top showers month of 1990 by 11%.

It also just squeaked by with record admissions for the 30-day span of approximately 90 million. That exceeded 1990 by roughly .5%.

New Line found the first spot in market share, just shy of 20% of the big pie on grosses of $84.7 million. Propelled by the de-but of “Lost in Space” — also the month’s top individual performer — and niche hit “The Players Club,” the company cemented its position for the year to date. It ranks third for 1998 and has three of the top 10 grossers through the first four months.

What the month lacked in sturdy performers, it made up for in sheer volume. Fourteen films debuted in wide release compared with 11 a year ago, and a handful of other titles mined specialized areas effectively. The latter category included “Everest,” MacGillivray Freeman’s Imax opus; Sony Classics’ “The Spanish Prisoner”; “Love and Death on Long Island,” from Lions Gate; and First Look’s “Mrs. Dalloway.”

Through April 30, the 1998 box office had amassed $2.07 billion, ahead of last year’s former record pace by 6.5%. However, with the past weekend registering a 5% B.O. drop from 1997 and the prospect of a May lull, the current year could well be flat with last year entering the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Buena Vista, which topped the past weekend with “He Got Game,” had its worst performance of the decade with a market share of less than 1% from holdover fare. The perennial market share leader or bridesmaid will have an impossible task to catch up to Paramount, which has a $250 million lead on Sony and is more than $400 million in front of the Mouse House. Nonetheless, BV has what appears to be the strongest commercial lineup for the rest of the year.

Following “Lost in Space,” April’s top B.O. titles (in descending order) were: Warner Bros.’ “City of Angels,” Paramount’s “Titanic,” Universal’s “Mercury Rising,” Fox’s “The Object of My Affection,” New Line’s “The Players Club,” MGM’s “Species II,” Paramount’s “The Odd Couple II” and “Grease” reissue and Sony’s “The Big Hit.”