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New Year Box Office Starts Off With Bang : Movies: At $15.5 million, 'Dumb' stole the show during the long holiday weekend. But many other movies filled the seats as well.

January 03, 1995|RICHARD NATALE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Movie theaters rang out the auld lang syne and ushered in a rousing 1995 as a variety of audience pleasers from "Dumb and Dumber" to "I.Q." invigorated the four-day holiday. As many as 18 films grossed more than $1 million over the New Year's weekend, with total receipts expected to be about $100 million to $110 million, up 10% to 15% from last year.

According to John Krier of Exhibitor Relations, post-Christmas business was so good that it may wind up pushing 1994's ticket sales past the projected record of $5.4 billion.

"Dumb and Dumber" was again the viewers' No. 1 choice. With $15.5 million, Jim Carrey's third film is an unrequited smash, his third in less than a year. Over its first three weeks "Dumb" has grossed--and grossed-out--about $66 million, and distribution head Mitch Goldman is confident that the film will render to New Line its second $100 million grosser of 1994 (the other being Carrey's "The Mask").

Placing in second was "Disclosure," which grossed $12.1 million over the weekend and $52 million so far. The family audience took up third through seventh place, led by Disney's live-action "Jungle Book," which growled and clawed its way to $9.5 million on 1,981 screens and has grossed $22 million since its Christmas Day bow. Macaulay Culkin seems to have reversed his recent bad skein with "Richie Rich," accumulating $8.8 million on 1,748 screens for $23 million in two weekends. "Little Women" held its own against the boys with $8.6 million on 1,574 screens and $20.1 million since its debut nine days ago.

In sixth place was Tim Allen, another new film star for 1994, also imported from the small screen. "The Santa Clause," helped by New Year's Eve sneak previews of "Houseguest," which opens this Friday, had an $8.5-million weekend and is now the Disney family label's highest grossing live-action film, with $137.5 million.

The rush of young males to "Dumb and Dumber" came out of the hide of the action-film audience. "Streetfighter," starring Jean-Claude Van Damme, dropped from third place to seventh with $7 million over the weekend on 1,736 screens and a respectable $21.1-million holiday total. "Drop Zone" with Wesley Snipes had a soft landing of $3.6 million over the weekend and a modest $23.2 million to date.

Though "Disclosure" and several popular family films attracted a good portion of adult filmgoers, there was still room enough for "I.Q.," "Nell" and "Speechless."

The Meg Ryan/Tim Robbins romantic comedy, "I.Q.," did best, with $6.5 million on 1,411 screens and $13.1 million since Christmas Day. But Jodie Foster in "Nell," which is only on 878 screens, did almost as well, with $5.7 million and $12.3 million so far. "Speechless" earned $4.1 million and a so-so $15 million in three weeks.

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Unfortunately, that left barely any viewers for Robert Altman's "Ready to Wear," which managed only $2.1 million over the weekend and just $6.1 million in its first nine days. Best-actor kudos for Paul Newman and a publicity blitz by the actor on behalf of "Nobody's Fool" pushed the quiet drama to a $205,000 weekend on seven screens, about $29,000 per theater. Since Christmas Day it has grossed $365,000. It's due to break nationally on Jan. 13. Rave reviews for the Nicholas Hytner-directed "The Madness of King George," which opened Dec. 28, resulted in a virtual weekend sell-out of $65,000 on two screens and $91,000 since its debut.

Best of all were two Columbia/TriStar limited runs. "Immortal Beloved" is a bit of an art-house sleeper with $165,000 on four screens (more than $40,000 a theater) and almost $600,000 since its debut. The epic "Legends of the Fall" did almost as well, with $260,000 on seven screens and $470,000 to date.

And continuing their marathon performances were two of the most popular movies of all time. Going out like a lion, with $3.1 million, Disney's "Lion King" reclaimed its turf as the No. 1 film of 1994, topping $300 million in the process. "Lion" is now the fourth-largest-grossing movie of all time.

But it ain't over 'til it's over; "Forrest Gump" picked up another stray $1 million or so on 241 screens. It's nipping at the "King's" heels with $298.7 million and promises to be in theaters right through spring.

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