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JACK MATHEWS

Stallone Loses A Box-office Arm-wrestle

February 19, 1987|JACK MATHEWS

You could have made a fortune last week betting that "Mannequin," starring Andrew McCarthy, would make more money during the long Presidents' Day weekend than "Over the Top," which stars Sylvester Stallone.

On the other hand, it's lucky you didn't think of it. You might have spent the weekend in a straitjacket.

"Mannequin" over Stallone? A movie about a Philadelphia flunkie who falls in love with a bewitched department store dummy over a movie about a muscle-bound truck driver who goes for the world arm-wrestling championship? A sissy over Rambo?

"Sure, Mac, can I get you another zombie float, or do you think you've had enough to drink?"

Well, it happened, and it's the biggest mystery since Agatha Christie disappeared for 11 days. The final score: "Mannequin," $6 million, "Over the Top," $5.1 million.

The whipping was even worse when you compare the number of theaters in which the two films opened. "Mannequin," out of 20th Century Fox by Gladden Entertainment, was showing in 922 theaters. "Over the Top," out of Warner Bros. by Cannon Films, played on 1,758 screens.

If anyone other than Stallone were involved, the only thing these figures would prove is that there were more people watching one bad movie than another. I saw "Mannequin" at an early screening two weeks ago and came away feeling as if I'd stepped in something.

Though they finished their opening weekends within $1 million of each other, it is clear that "Mannequin" is a hit and that "Over the Top" is not. "Mannequin," with a first-time writer-director and a relatively unknown cast, cost very little to make--certainly less than $10 million. "Over the Top," with $12 million going to its star, probably cost close to $30 million.

Stallone has been the world's top box-office draw for the last few years. The two Rambo movies, the last two "Rocky's" and "Cobra" grossed more than $800 million worldwide.

A Stallone movie hasn't had an opening weekend box office of less than $15 million since the 1984 "Rhinestone," the last downward blip on his career chart. (Want to see him arm wrestle while singing "Your Cheatin' Heart"?)

There are a couple of obvious conclusions to be drawn from "Over the Top's" dismal opening.

First, arm wrestling is not going to replace baseball as the American pasttime.

Second, Stallone can no longer be considered America's No. 1 box-office attraction. (Eddie Murphy now has that distinction, by virtue of having drawn $74 million worth of business to the pitiful "The Golden Child.")

Stallone, who flirted with acting credibility in his early movies (he had a best actor Oscar nomination for "Rocky"), has become a living caricature of a comic-strip hero. He could probably make action movies for the rest of his life and never have to worry about $5.1 million openings again.

Maybe he will do that. He has plans to do "Rambo 3," "Rocky 5," even "Cobra 2." Steve Reeves, eat your heart out.

But when you consider how much of the opening of "Over the Top" grosses must have come from the Stallone faithful following the trail of posters, it is even more apparent that the audience for Stallone, the actor of range, is not a large one.

The audience for "Platoon" is not small, or even shrinking. Oliver Stone's blockbuster (yes, it is one) Vietnam combat film, with 338 more theaters and eight fresh Oscar nominations, did $12.9 million over the four-day weekend. Its total earnings, after eight weeks: $54.8 million.

Last week's Oscar nominations had little effect on the other major recipients. Roland Joffe's "The Mission," which had seven nominations, did only $1 million in 643 theaters, and its $12.5-million total is less than half of the film's reported $26-million cost.

James Ivory's "A Room With a View," which tied "Platoon" with eight nominations, has never been in national release, but has nevertheless earned $5 million more than "The Mission." "A Room With a View" is now in 73 theaters, up 38 from a week earlier, and averaged a fairly strong $4,500 per screen.

Woody Allen's "Hannah and Her Sisters," re-released in 255 theaters after receiving seven nominations, added $786,758 to its 1986 total. With $36 million, "Hannah" is one of Allen's most commercially successful movies.

Allen's new release, "Radio Days," is also off to a good start. "Radio Days" grossed $1.4 million in 140 theaters and has a total of $5 million after just two weeks.

The weekend's top 10: "Platoon," "Outrageous Fortune," "Mannequin," "Over the Top," "Black Widow," "Crocodile Dundee," "Light of Day," "From the Hip," "Star Trek IV," "Radio Days."

Movie fans dial-hopping for an alternative to ABC-TV's mini-sturgeon "Amerika" may have been both shocked and pleased to find Milos Forman's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" on KTLA Monday night. Pleased because it's one of the great movies of the last 20 years, shocked because it was being shown in its full, unexpurgated glory.

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