Walt Disney Pictures' "The Three Musketeers," with a quartet of youthful stars, and Universal Pictures' R-rated "Carlito's Way," starring Al Pacino and Sean Penn, opened the holiday movie season in a big way during the weekend, landing in first and second place in the box-office derby.
The latest film version of Alexandre Dumas' classic French tale of three swordsmen and D'Artagnan sold an estimated $11.5 million in tickets in the Friday-through-Sunday period at 2,069 theaters. The broadly played comedy stars Charlie Sheen, Keifer Sutherland, Chris O'Donnell, Oliver Platt, Tim Curry and Rebecca De Mornay. It's the debut film of producer Joe Roth's Caravan Pictures and its association with Disney.
The Brian DePalma-directed "Carlito's Way," with Pacino as an ex-con, grossed $9.3 million at substantially fewer theaters--1,615--than the "Musketeers." The strong performance also belied the film's long two-hour-plus playing time, which limits the number of daily showings.
Audiences also responded well to "My Life," a movie starring Michael Keaton and Nicole Kidman, in which Keaton plays a man dying of cancer who makes a video describing his life to his unborn child. Showing on only 800 screens, the movie drew $5.7 million, giving it the weekend's highest per-screen average--$7,025--for films in national release and placing third in box-office sales.
On Sunday, Columbia Pictures reported that exit polls showed a 91% favorable rating, indicating potential staying power as the studio prepares to expand the number of theaters.
Overall, the weekend's business continued the winning streak for Hollywood, as the screen industry heads for what looks like a record-breaking year at the box office. However, with final figures still to be tallied, this weekend's revenue apparently was lower than recorded for the weekend a year ago when Francis Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" opened to a smashing $30.5 million
The news from the Disney film division about "The Three Musketeers," plus continuing lively ticket sales for its No. 4-ranked "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" and No. 5-ranked "Cool Runnings," had to be a silver lining, of sorts. Late last week, the parent firm Walt Disney Co. reported its own financial "nightmare" before Christmas: a fourth quarter loss of $514.7 million, largely due to problems at its Euro Disney theme park near Paris. Although the just-ended fiscal year brought Disney a profit, it was the company's first quarterly loss in nine years.
During the weekend, the ghoulish animated musical "Nightmare Before Christmas" took in$5.5 million, bringing its cumulative box office to $34 million. "Cool Runnings," the story of a Jamaican bobsledding team, grossed $3.6 million, bringing its total to $48.5 million after seven weekends.
"The entire fall season, starting with "Joy Luck Club," has been a good one," said Disney distribution president Richard Cook. "And now with the start of the holiday season, the whole market place is performing exceptionally well."
Other weekend estimates: "The Beverly Hillbillies," $2.5 million; "Look Who's Talking Now," $2.4 million; "Rudy," $2 million; "Flesh and Bone," $2 million; and "Robocop 3," $2 million.
Columbia's release of the Merchant Ivory production of "Remains of the Day," starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, is playing on only 500 screens, but it took in $1.8 million--a strong number for a film considered to appeal to highbrow tastes.