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The 'Brady' Hunch Pays at Box Office : Movies: The film, based on the squeaky-clean '70s TV family, is thriving in the '90s with a solid opening weekend.

February 21, 1995|RICHARD NATALE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

After being nearly unconscious for several weeks, U.S. box-office receipts were resuscitated somewhat over the Presidents' Day weekend, thanks largely to a family named Brady.

Based on the 1970s TV series about a family so preternaturally happy as to make the "Father Knows Best" clan look like characters out of Ibsen, "The Brady Bunch Movie" bounded into the '90s with somewhere between $14.5 million and $15 million in its first four days on 1,822 screens. If it ends up toward the top of that range, the "Brady" film will be the second-largest February premiere, overtaking "Groundhog Day" but behind the $18.1 million chalked up by another TV-to-film venture, "Wayne's World."

Barry London, Paramount Pictures vice chairman, said he'd sensed that the film would open solidly, "but not to this level. We're very pleased." The groundswell, he said, came from the young female audience and parents motivated by nostalgia.

Though no match for the Brady clan, Sean Connery's thriller "Just Cause" had a rousing debut of about $10.6 million in more than 2,000 theaters.

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And while the girls were hanging out with the "Brady Bunch," the boys were yucking it up at "Billy Madison" and Disney's new kiddie flick, "Heavyweights." Universal's estimates have "Billy Madison" ahead by a nose with $6.1 million ($14 million since its opening), though others have it in the high $5-million area. "Heavyweights," about fat kids at a weight-loss camp, earned $6 million on 1,953 screens.

The Sharon Stone Western, "The Quick and the Dead," is living up to the latter part of its title, diving 35% to $4.2 million ($13 million in two weekends). Fortunately, TriStar's other Western, "Legends of the Fall," took in an estimated $4.1 million, bringing it to almost $54 million.

The Whoopi Goldberg female-bonding flick "Boys on the Side" is nowhere near the hit Warner Bros. had been hoping for, with only about $3.6 million in its third weekend and just $16 million to date.

Good weather in most of the country, particularly the West Coast, relieved the cabin fever that had taken hold over the past few weeks. Still, box office overall continues to lag behind 1994's. The Presidents' Day weekend could end up as much as 15% to 20% behind last year, says Exhibitor Relations' John Krier.

Even the Oscar sweepstakes didn't give the Presidents' Day weekend its usual boost since many of the nominees are already fairly tapped out. Best picture nominees "Forrest Gump" and "Pulp Fiction" did best, while "The Madness of King George" and the returning "Quiz Show" also added to their coffers.

"Gump," with its near-record 13 nominations, attracted those few people in the country who hadn't caught it the first time around, as well as a large cadre of repeat customers, which added up to $3 million on 1,100 screens for $303.6 million to date, making it the fifth-largest grossing film in history.

"Pulp," with seven nominations, more than doubled its business, with $2.9 million on 1,008 screens. The Quentin Tarantino film has now grossed about $80 million and just might flirt with the $100-million mark before it hits the video shelves.

"The Madness of King George" snared four nominations, lending the British import a more regal profile. Now on 251 screens, it attracted $1.6 million for the weekend and $5.1 million to date. "Quiz Show" took its four nominations to the bank and added $1.1 million, lifting it past $23 million.

In 10th place, with nominations for best actor (Paul Newman) and best screenplay (Robert Benton), "Nobody's Fool" inched up slightly to $2.6 million on 1,007 screens. For a film that was perceived as an underachiever, it's doing better than expected, having now grossed more than $30 million.

Though it didn't get an Oscar nomination, the documentary "Hoop Dreams" is thriving on the controversy of its being snubbed by the film academy, pulling in around $600,000 for the holiday weekend on 262 screens. To date, "Hoop Dreams" has grossed a little more than $4.6 million.

Next weekend, "The Shawshank Redemption" and Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway," each of which captured seven nominations, will break wider in hopes of some Oscar coin.

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