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Christmas Crowd Opts for the Tried and True : Box office: Holiday weekend sees expected surge in moviegoing with established hits selling most of the tickets.

December 28, 1992|DAVID J. FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Christmas holiday weekend brought the expected surge in attendance at the nation's movie theaters, but the public appeared to concentrate its attention on the already established hits "A Few Good Men," "Aladdin" and "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York."

The two new films that opened in wide release on Christmas Day--the high-powered, big-budgeted Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito film "Hoffa" and the action-oriented dark comedy "Trespass," with rappers Ice-T and Ice Cube--failed to break into the top five grossing films.

Meanwhile, films in limited release, such as "Chaplin," "Used People," "Damage" and "Peter's Friends," played to full theaters.

Overall, it was a very strong Friday-through-Sunday at the ticket booths and the top-grossing movies in the marketplace should do about $90 million in business, according to industry estimates on Sunday. That would put the just-ended weekend well ahead of the previous weekend and on par with the Christmas weekend of 1991.

For the third consecutive weekend, the Columbia Pictures/Castle Rock Entertainment courtroom drama "A Few Good Men," starring Tom Cruise, Nicholson and Demi Moore, led in grosses. On Sunday, Columbia estimated the film would gross $14 million on 2,112 screens for the weekend, compared to $11 million the previous weekend, bringing its total to $51.8 million after 17 days of release.

In second and third places, Walt Disney Pictures' animated musical "Aladdin" and 20th Century Fox's "Home Alone 2" both scored hefty totals, even with large portions of the seats sold at children's prices. "Aladdin" grossed $13 million on 2,255 screens for a total of $75 million to date, and "Home Alone 2" scored $10 million in sales at 2,452 locations, for a total of $126 million.

In fourth place was the Warner Bros.' Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston drama "The Bodyguard," which grossed $9 million at 1,806 sites. Its total now stands at $72 million. Another Warner release, the Mel Gibson-Jamie Lee Curtis melodrama "Forever Young," came in fifth with ticket sales of $7.9 million on 1,710 screens, bringing its total to $18.5 million.

The film industry entered the holiday season with high expectations. But box-office tracker John Krier of Exhibitor Relations Co. noted only a minor improvement. The Christmas weekend box-office totals for the top five films this year was $54 million compared to $53.5 million for the top five a year ago ("Hook," "The Prince of Tides," "Beauty and the Beast" "Father of the Bride" and "The Last Boy Scout").

The New Year's weekend ahead is expected to close out the 1992 box-office year on a high note, although there are no major new films due in wide release. All indications are that 1992's total gross will be slightly ahead of last year's.

Industry sources on Sunday noted that business for the top three movies improved from Friday to Saturday--considered a good sign. On the other hand, both "Hoffa" and "Trespass" experienced an ominous fall-off in receipts. The consensus was that the outlook for both films will not improve.

The same dismal future is believed in store for the Steve Martin film "Leap of Faith," from Paramount Pictures, and the Robin Williams fantasy "Toys," from Fox. Both opened a week earlier to mediocre numbers and did not show any improvement over the Christmas weekend--when business might be expected to increase. Another star-powered film, Eddie Murphy's "The Distinguished Gentleman" from Disney's Hollywood Pictures division, also opened slowly--especially for a movie starring Murphy--and has not recovered as the Christmas moviegoing period got into full swing.

"Hoffa," with Nicholson as the controversial Teamsters union chief Jimmy Hoffa, came in sixth with an estimated $6.6 million on 1,066 screens and "Trespass" drew $5 million on 1,022 screens for seventh place.

In eighth was "Distinguished Gentleman" with $4.4 million on 1,859 screens. Ninth was "Leap of Faith," grossing $4 million on 1,597 screens, and tenth was "Toys," drawing $3.9 million on 1,295 screens.

Business was strong for films in limited release. Among the many: TriStar Pictures' "Chaplin," with Robert Downey Jr. as the legendary title figure, drew $86,000 on five screens; the Samuel Goldwyn Co. release of "Peter's Friends" played to $350,000 on 45 screens; New Line Cinema's release of Louis Malle's "Damage," starring Jeremy Irons, grossed $100,000 on four screens; Universal Pictures' "Scent of a Woman" starring Al Pacino, grossed $367,000 in 20 locations; Fox's "Used People" took in $220,000 on 16 screens. Among other films, Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" continued to drop off, grossing about $2 million on 1,010 screens for a total to date of $40 million. Disney's small-budgeted "A Muppet Christmas Carol" collected $3 million on 2,020 screens for a total of $18 million.

Final box-office figures will be released today.

DELAYED JOURNEY: Walter Hill's "Trespass" took some detours en route to the big screen. F3

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