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B.O. blooms, wilts

April breaks records, but admissions slip

April showered the box office with the first record-breaking frame of 1999, posting a 30-day cume of $448.2 million. Admissions for the span weren’t quite as heady, however, slipping 2% from 1998 and ranking third behind ’98 and 1990.

Warner Bros. was the clear market share leader, capturing more than one-third of the box office on a $155 million gross. April’s top individual performer — WB’s “The Matrix” –alone accounted for 25% of the overall tally. Admissions clocked in at approximately 88.3 million.

The month was largely dominated by a couple of top-grossing films and myriad pics that were working well in the niches. In the latter category, several large-format films continued strongly along with such newcomers as Primesco’s “Wolves,” “Extreme” from Imax/BlDJF and Discovery’s “Wild-fire: Feel the Heat.” Box office for the Hawaiian production “Beyond Paradise” rivaled that of the “The Matrix” on the islands. And October’s “Cookie’s Fortune” has emerged as the top niche title this year.

Through the first four months of 1999, box office climbed to $1.95 billion, roughly 6% behind the record pace set last year. Industry trackers expect the gap to be closed in June thanks to the initial play of Fox’s “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace,” which opens May 19.

April came in roaring but, despite the debut of a couple of lively performers, sank to six-month weekly B.O. lows. A spate of teen-appeal movies failed to meet heady expectations, reaching a low point with Sony’s “Go,” a critically lauded entry that still proved to be one too many for its target group.

Also flying considerably below expectations were Universal’s “EDtv” and Fox’s “Pushing Tin.”

Following “The Matrix,” the top grossing titles (in descending order) for the month were Universal’s “Life,” Fox’s “Never Been Kissed,” Buena Vista’s “10 Things I Hate About You,” Warner Bros.’ “Analyze This,” Paramount’s “The Out-of-Towners,” DreamWorks’ “Forces of Nature,” Sony’s “Go,” Miramax’s “Shakespeare in Love” and Universal’s “EDtv.”