'Home Alone' scores big


LOS ANGELES -- The star of the movie is a mere lad of 9, and the story line has been criticized as implausible and excessively sentimental.

But "Home Alone" has overcome those obstacles and others, becoming the first blockbuster hit of the holiday film season and making its young leading man an instant favorite of American children and a potential millionaire.

Playing Kevin McCallister, who is accidentally left behind when his parents, four siblings and many assorted relatives leave for Paris from their home in suburban Chicago on a Christmas vacation, young Macaulay Culkin lives out a universal childhood fantasy.

He gorges on ice cream, stays up late watching television and fends off a pair of bumbling burglars, a comedic formula that has proved immensely alluring to the young and not-so-young.

Released in mid-November by 20th Century-Fox, the PG-rated "Home Alone" has already earned just under $100 million. It has been No. 1 in box-office receipts for five straight weeks.

"We weren't on anybody's list of upcoming films for the holiday, not even in the long-shot, dark-horse column," said John Hughes, who produced and wrote the movie. "But I felt that the concept, the idea of a kid taking care of himself, was the most important thing."

The success of "Home Alone" demonstrates the importance of knowing the right time to release a movie. Twentieth Century-Fox was to open "Home Alone" Thanksgiving weekend, but changed its plans when it was announced that Disney's "Three Men and a Little Lady," a sequel to the 1987 hit "Three Men and a Baby," would do the same.

"When 'Three Men' moved into that slot, we knew there was no way we could possibly compete head to head," said Tom Sherak, head of marketing at 20th Century-Fox. "We decided to move everything up a week."

By doing so, "Home Alone" opened against Sylvester Stallone's "Rocky V" on Nov. 16 and racked up $17 million, a record gross for a non-holiday fall weekend.

One early beneficiary of the movie's success is its star, who by appealing to adults and children and showing the ability to carry a film has suddenly become a hot property.

He is reportedly to receive $1 million for his next film, "I Am Woman." Mr. Hughes added that "a sequel about the next chapter in Kevin's life makes sense creatively" and that he and 20th Century-Fox are discussing the possibility.

He also acknowledged that the child, whose contract does not oblige him to appear in a sequel, stands to make a lot more money the second time around. His salary for acting in "Home Alone" was reportedly in the low six figures.

"It's phenomenal that we're talking about these numbers in connection with a 10-year-old boy," Paul Feldsher, Macaulay Culkin's agent, said of this Manhattan fifth-grader who has been acting since he was 4 years old.

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