The tangible results of winning Oscars and all the publicity that goes handin-hand with Hollywood's biggest night of the year were found in the weekend's vastly improved box-office grosses for the already successful "Schindler's List," "Philadelphia" and "The Piano."
"Just a quick read of the box-office estimates for the weekend tells you that the Oscars had a positive effect," said John Krier of Exhibitor Relations Co., a firm that tracks box-office data. He said the numbers are even more impressive considering that all three films have serious and dark themes and that "Schindler's List" has a three-hour-plus running time, which limits the number of daily showings.
Overall, Krier said, weekend ticket sales at the nation's theaters were running ahead of the comparable weekend a year ago. One reason for the strong attendance is that springtime breaks for some schools began over the weekend. Other schools will begin their spring holidays this weekend.
The activity was led by three highly commercial movies. From one to three, they are Walt Disney Pictures' hockey comedy "D2 The Mighty Ducks," which took in $10.5 million in its opening weekend at 2,183 theaters; Paramount Pictures' "Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult," which grossed $8 million in its second weekend on 2,383 screens, bringing its total to $27.4 million, and Universal Pictures' release of director Ron Howard's "The Paper," which expanded from five theaters to a national release on 1,072 screens on Friday, and grossed $7 million.
In fourth was Steven Spielberg's Holocaust epic "Schindler's List" which grabbed seven Oscars, including best picture of 1993, a week ago tonight. On the weekend before the Oscar telecast, the Universal Pictures release grossed $4.3 million. On the weekend after the Oscars, the gross leaped to $5.8 million. It was enough to give the movie a fourth-place finish for the weekend's Top 10 movies and it brought the film's cumulative gross to $68.4 million after 15 weekends of release.
The drama "Philadelphia," which, like "Schindler's List," opened in a limited number of theaters during the Christmas season, grossed $2 million for the weekend, up from $1.1 million a weekend earlier. The TriStar Pictures film had dropped out of the Top 10 weeks ago. But this weekend it re-entered the list in eighth place.
"Philadelphia," directed by Jonathan Demme, brought the best actor Oscar to Tom Hanks for playing an AIDS-stricken attorney fired from his law firm, as well the Oscar for best song written directly for the screen to Bruce Springsteen for his composition "Streets of Philadelphia."
Miramax Films' release of "The Piano," a gothic drama set in turn-of-the-century New Zealand, received Oscars for best actress Holly Hunter, supporting actress Anna Paquin and director Jane Campion's original screenplay. The Oscar attention pushed the box-office take for "The Piano" to $1.4 million, up from $610,000 a weekend earlier. Overall, "The Piano" has grossed $36.3 million in the U.S.
After "Schindler's List" on the Top 10, was fifth-ranked "Above the Rim," from New Line Pictures, with $3.8 million. The Shirley MacLaine and Nicolas Cage comedy "Guarding Tess" ranked sixth with $3.1 million and "Monkey Trouble" was seventh with $2.3 million.
Rounding out the Top 10 were "Philadelphia" in eighth, and then "Lightning Jack," with an estimated $1.9 million and "Mrs. Doubtfire" with an estimated $1.6 million.
Final box-office figures will be released today.