"It was a marketing department's dream," New Line Cinema's marketing boss Mitchell Goldman said Sunday as he projected a No. 1 finish and a huge $23.5-million opening weekend box-office tally for his company's comedy-action release, "The Mask."
"I mean, look what we had to work with: Jim Carrey, hot off his 'Ace Ventura' smash-hit film, and special effects by ILM (Industrial Light & Magic)."
For months, the industry buzz on "The Mask" has been exceptionally positive, based largely on those two ingredients: Carrey as an ordinary bank clerk who becomes his exciting alter ego whenever he puts on a magical mask, and the mask that has extraordinary powers illustrated with special effects by the multi-Oscar winning firm ILM (of "Jurassic Park" fame). As preliminary weekend box-office results became known Sunday, Goldman, New Line's president of marketing, said his company and the production team were "ecstatic."
For New Line, which became a part of Ted Turner's entertainment empire in January, the release of "The Mask" in mid-summer was an opportunity to prove the studio could be an equal to the major production firms during the hottest movie-going season of the year.
"It was our most ambitious campaign to date," said Goldman of the extensive TV ads that targeted two specific audiences: teens, as well as children and their parents. "But clearly we've got all groups--adults too--coming."
The $23.5-million estimated gross for Friday through Sunday does not include the $1.8 million from Thursday night previews of the film. Goldman pointed out that "The Mask," which cost $19 million to produce, is one of the few films this year that apparently has recouped its production costs in its opening weekend.
The arrival of "The Mask" added to an already lustrous box-office picture that had four other summer movies grossing in the neighborhood of $10 million or substantially higher over the weekend.
They are: "Forrest Gump," in second place with $18.2 million and $140 million to date; "True Lies," in third with $13.4 million and $84.8 million overall; "The Client," in fourth, $12.5 million and $44 million; and "The Lion King," in fifth with $9.6 million and $218.1 million to date.
All indications, based on Sunday's estimates, were that the just-ended weekend would be the third non-holiday weekend in a row to surpass $100 million.
Further, according to records kept by the box-office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations Co., the total for the just-ended weekend will be substantially ahead of the comparable one a year ago, and it probably will push the 1994 year-to-date total box-office gross slightly ahead of 1993.
The "Forrest Gump" phenomenon continued virtually unabated as the Paramount Pictures' release about a whimsical and pure-of-heart character, played by Tom Hanks, completed its fourth weekend at theaters--during which it has never been lower than second place--and saw business drop only 17% from the third weekend.
Paramount president of worldwide distribution Barry London forecast the film would top $150 million before week's end, while the competition heats up even more with the arrival Friday of Paramount's "Clear and Present Danger," starring Harrison Ford.
Besides "The Mask," two other new films opened on the weekend.
TriStar Pictures' romantic comedy "It Could Happen to You," starring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda, drew a strong $8.1 million, finishing sixth in the weekend's competitive field. "Black Beauty" from Warner Bros. did a languid $1.3 million and rounded out the top 10.
Other top-grossing weekend films: "Angels in the Outfield," $4.5 million with $30.8 million to date, was seventh, followed by "Speed," $2.7 million with $104.8 million to date, and "Lassie," $1.5 million and $6.7 million to date.
Among the art house films, Castle Rock Entertainment's "Barcelona," from director Whit Stillman, which opens in Los Angeles this weekend, played to strong business at four New York City area theaters, taking in $100,000.