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'Return of Jedi' Writes Its Chapter for 'Special Edition'

Box office: Last reissue of 'Star Wars' trilogy opens at No. 1 with an estimated $16.3 million; 'Jungle' stays in second, while 'Parts' slides to third.

March 17, 1997|JUDY BRENNAN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"Return of the Jedi: Special Edition"--the last installment of the revamped "Star Wars" trilogy--returned to theaters with an estimated $16.3-million opening, less than its two predecessors but enough to take first place for the weekend.

As one competitor of 20th Century Fox's film put it Sunday: "Who would sneeze at an opening of $16 million? I'd take it any day."

The results pushed the 14-year-old "Jedi" to No. 9 on the list of top grossing films at the box office, at $280 million.

It falls behind the No. 8 record holder, "The Empire Strikes Back," with $282 million, which includes the estimated $59.4 million that its "Special Edition" version has taken in since its release four weeks ago. Over the weekend, "Empire" was tied for fourth place with TriStar's "Donnie Brasco" at about $5.5 million.

"Jedi's" weekend numbers compared to a $21.9-million opening for "Empire: Special Edition" and a phenomenal $35.9 million for "Star Wars: Special Edition" the weekend of Jan. 31.

The combined box office of the original 1977 release of "Star Wars" and its reissue is about $456.7 million, making it the biggest domestic grossing film ever. The "Special Edition" release was in ninth place for the weekend with about $2.26 million.

But Fox wasn't the only studio boasting over the weekend. Disney's Tim Allen comedy, "Jungle 2 Jungle," slid only 12% to about $11.3 million, maintaining its second place stronghold. By contrast, its opening week competitor, Paramount's "Private Parts," with Howard Stern, fell 38% to about $9 million, dropping from first place to third.

"I think the reason Tim's film held strong is because, with the exception of 'Star Wars,' it's really the only family movie out there," said Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney's Motion Picture Group. "With more kids getting out of school for spring break, we expect it to continue to build on word of mouth."

On the flip side, rivals expect that the box office for Stern's movie will continue to slide, since the shock jock's biggest fans are in the 36 markets that air his syndicated radio show and have now had two weeks to see it. The film, based on Stern's best-selling autobiography, is not expected to be a strong performer in foreign markets since he is not well-known overseas. It could, however, see a significant boost in video release.

As for other performers over the weekend: New Line Cinema's "love jones" opened in sixth with $4 million; Miramax's "Sling Blade" was in seventh with $3 million; Columbia's "Absolute Power" was in eighth with $2.5 million; and Columbia's "Booty Call" was in 10th with $2.2 million.

Final results will be released today.

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