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'Flintstones' Leaves the Rest in Its Dust : Movies: The live-action film takes in $37.5 million over the weekend. Ticket-price inflation notwithstanding, it establishes a record for a Memorial Day opening, based on preliminary estimates.

May 31, 1994|DAVID J. FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

What do you call $37.5 million in the box-office till?

Certainly not pebbles.

Hollywood on Monday was calling the Memorial Day weekend gross for Universal Pictures' "The Flintstones" something "wonderful" and a "great start for the summer."

Starring John Goodman as Fred Flintstone, the live-action version of the Hanna-Barbera animated TV series that was a hit in the 1960s, established a record--ticket-price inflation notwithstanding--for a Memorial Day weekend opening, based on preliminary estimates. It surpassed the $37 million taken in by Paramount Pictures' sequel "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade" in 1989, when ticket prices were somewhat lower. Both films are associated with Steven Spielberg.

"The Flintstones" also helped propel ticket sales for the overall movie business approximately 10% ahead of last year's Memorial Day weekend, which is the traditional beginning to the summer season. Hollywood invests heavily in summer fare from which it hopes to derive 40% of an entire year's box-office receipts.

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"After weeks of a springtime box-office slump, this certainly bodes well," said John Krier of Exhibitor Relations Co., who noted that there are "many big titles to come," including Walt Disney's animated "The Lion King," which industry insiders have picked as this summer's expected box-office champ. It opens June 15.

"The Flintstones" was launched with a massive marketing campaign--notably a tie-in to McDonald's restaurants--but to mixed reactions from the critics who thought the audience for the movie would be children.

"A lot of people thought this movie wasn't going to work, or that it would be only for kids," said Universal Pictures chairman Tom Pollock, whose studio released last summer's "Jurassic Park" (another Spielberg picture and the industry's all-time box-office champ). "But when you have a Friday night where families comprise only about half the business, it means that the other half are adults and teens on dates."

It also meant that about 40% of the weekend audience headed directly to "The Flintstones' " hometown of Bedrock, and it might appear that the stampede left other films in the proverbial dust. But not quite.

"Maverick," another remake of an old TV show with Mel Gibson as a card shark of the Old West and a cast that also bills Jodie Foster and James Garner, delivered an estimated big $18 million in the Friday-through-Monday period. That brought the total for the Warner Bros. release after two weekends of national release to just over $40 million.

Paramount Pictures' "Beverly Hills Cop III" drew an estimated $15.5 million in its debut. The film is the third in the series starring Eddie Murphy as a Detroit cop who finds adventures in Beverly Hills.

For Murphy, the opening was the strongest of his last three movies. His film "Boomerang" opened on a peak summer weekend in 1992 to $13.6 million. "The Distinguished Gentleman" scored $10.5 million in its first weekend during the Christmas season in December, 1992.

The box-office figures released Monday were based on industry estimates for Friday through Monday. Final results will be released today.

In fourth place was the Andy Garcia-Meg Ryan alcoholism drama "When a Man Loves a Woman" with $7.1 million, followed by the late Brandon Lee and "The Crow" in fifth with $6.3 million and "Four Weddings and a Funeral" in sixth with $2.7 million, estimates show.

Spike Lee's "Crooklyn" finished seventh with $1.6 million, while "With Honors" was eighth with $1.4 million. "Little Buddha" was ninth with $834,000 and "3 Ninjas Kick Back" was 10th with $745,000.

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