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'The Firm' Cruises With $7.2-Million Record Opening


"Jurassic Park" continues to break all kinds of box-office records, but now comes the legal drama of "The Firm," starring Tom Cruise, and it's making its case with a $7.2-million opening day on Wednesday. And if the pace continues, it could push the Steven Spielberg dinosaur horror movie into second place among the top grossing movies for the long Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Paramount Pictures reported on Thursday that the $7.2-million figure set an industry record for the biggest midweek opening of a non-sequel film. However, the movie has a built-in audience given it is based on John Grisham's highly popular novel, which has sold 580,000 hard copies and 9.36 million paperbacks.

The movie's first-day gross surpassed the record held since 1984 by the original action comedy "Beverly Hills Cop," starring Eddie Murphy, which did business of $4.2 million. The biggest Wednesday opening on record, however, is held by the sequel "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," which collected $8.7 million on its first day, July 3, 1991--also the kick off for a long Independence Day weekend.

"We're looking forward to a fabulous holiday weekend," said Barry London, Paramount's president of worldwide distribution, as he discussed the opening-day figure. "That number would have been sensational for a Friday. For a Wednesday, it's spectacular."

While he declined to make a prediction about what the film might gross for the weekend, he did say the film is "certainly displaying the potential" to knock "Jurassic Park" out of first place for the first time since it opened on a Friday, June 11. That in itself would be a feat, since "Jurassic Park" is generally regarded as being in a category all its own when it comes to box-office performance. The first weekend for "Jurassic Park" established an industry record of $50.1 million. Its first Monday alone pulled in $8.6 million, Tuesday $8.3 million and Wednesday $7.1 million.

Some in the industry are projecting "The Firm" will gross between the "high '20s and the low '30s" (in millions of dollars) for the holiday weekend.

Although "The Firm" might push "Jurassic Park" out of first place for the weekend, it has a long way to go to catch up with the total gross for the Spielberg movie. As of Wednesday, "Jurassic Park" had sold $183-million worth of tickets.

London said that one drawback to higher grosses for "The Firm"' is its two-and-a-half-hour running time, which limits the number of showings. But he said, based on Wednesday surveys, the film is being very strongly attended by adults, especially females over 25. "This is a group that normally doesn't run out to see a movie on the first night."

Another disadvantage is that the R-rated film won't have the younger audience that the PG-13 "Jurassic Park" has.

In the past, sequels have usually had the strongest midweek openings. Besides "Terminator 2," some of the biggest were "Back to the Future Part 2" with $7.2 million on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving Day in 1989, and "The Godfather Part III," with $6.4 million on Christmas Day, 1990.

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