If "Sliver," starring Sharon Stone, and "Hot Shots! Part Deux" were supposed to kick off a really big Hollywood summer season, then the pressure will be on the movies debuting this Memorial Day weekend to bring some sizzle to the box office. While both movies opened strongly, industry observers believe neither drew the level of business during the weekend that would indicate they will be huge, runaway hits.
"Sliver," which reteamed Stone with Joe Eszterhas, the screenwriter of the steamy 1992 hit "Basic Instinct," drew slightly more than $12 million on 2,100 screens between Friday and Sunday. However, that's short of the $15.1 million that "Basic Instinct" collected in its first weekend on 500 fewer screens.
"It's an outstanding opening for any time of the year," said Paramount's president of worldwide distribution, Barry London, noting that the weekend was considered "pre-summer playing time." The summer season, officially from Memorial Day through Labor Day, is traditionally the heaviest moviegoing period of the year, accounting for as much as 40% of all movie business. This weekend's contenders, opening Friday, include Sylvester Stallone in "Cliffhanger," Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson in "Made in America" and "Super Mario Bros.," a film based on a video game.
"Sliver," which co-stars William Baldwin and Tom Berenger, had been heavily promoted by an advertising campaign hyping its voyeurism and sexuality that was orchestrated by producer Robert Evans. How the film eventually fares will not only be a measure for the studio but also of Evans' attempt to re-establish himself as a major producer ("Love Story," "Chinatown").
Paramount's box-office fortunes had been on a slide for the better part of a year, until the debut in April of "Indecent Proposal." The movie grossed about $3 million during the weekend and has accumulated $88 million to date.
20th Century Fox's "Hot Shots! Part Deux," starring Charlie Sheen, grossed an estimated 10.7 million, on 2,122 screens. If that estimate holds when final industry box-office figures are released today, that would put it up with the original "Hot Shots" in 1991, which did $10.8 million its first weekend.
"Everything that opens can't do $20 million the first weekend," said Fox executive vice president Tom Sherak. "This is a good start, especially when you see that there are three movies splitting the biggest part of the box office."
The third highest-grossing film of the weekend was the Warner Bros. political comedy "Dave," with an estimated $7.8 million, bringing its total to $29 million.
Taken together, the weekend's three leading films grossed about $30.5 million. That's healthy by industry standards. However, a year ago, one film--"Lethal Weapon 3"--grabbed $33.4 million, eclipsing all others in release.
Universal Picture's "Dragon--The Bruce Lee Story," ranked fourth with $3.6 million, and Gramercy Picture's "Posse" was fifth with $3.3 million.
The weekend's grosses for the Top 20 movies are expected to be off about 14% from the comparable weekend last year, according to box-office tracking service, Exhibitor Relations.