February B.O. busts out

Take, admission records set in fabulous frame

February shattered the record books with a powerful $466.8 million box office, exceeding last year’s former heights by 20%. It was Paramount’s “Titanic” that ruled the waves of moviegoers, outgrossing its closest competitor by 150%.

Admissions also set a new standard with an estimated 98.2 million tix sold in the course of 28 days. That bettered the previous high mark set in 1991 by 5%.

Paramount continued to command in market share, accounting for 26.4% of the big picture on a $122.8 million gross from its releases. Sony and New Line fought for the bridesmaid position with the former nosing ahead 15.2% to the Time Warner subsid’s 14.8%.

It was decidedly an award-winning frame, with B.O. from Oscar-nominated pictures representing approximately 50% of all February grosses. Films including October’s “The Apostle,” Fine Line’s “The Sweet Hereafter” and Miramax’s “Mrs. Brown” arguably were among the biggest beneficiaries of the statuette’s luster. “L.A. Confidential” and “The Full Monty” definitely got a second commercial wind and “Wag the Dog” certainly was not hurt by award attention or Washington scandal.

Ironically, just one new release was performing like a winner, New Line’s “The Wedding Singer.” Warner Bros.’ megabudget “Sphere” was a disappointment and such films as “The Replacement Killers” and “The Borrowers” were OK programmers. But clearly there were a dozen freshmen that fell like shock troops to the entrenched force of “Titanic,” “Good Will Hunting” and “As Good As It Gets.”

Following “Titanic,” the month’s best-performing titles (in descending order) were: New Line’s “The Wedding Singer,” Miramax’s “Good Will Hunting,” Warner Bros.’ “Sphere,” Columbia’s “As Good As It Gets” and “The Replacement Killers,” Fox’s “Great Expectations,” Polygram’s “The Borrowers,” Universal’s “Blues Brothers 2000” and New Line’s “Wag the Dog.”

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