'Terminator 2' conquers box office foes, makes $52.8 million


Call it Operation Summer Storm.

With Commander Arnold Schwarzenegger leading the charge, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" invaded America's box offices over the long holiday weekend to score a decisive $52.8 million victory.

The mega-sequel led a phenomenal five-day rush to the nation's movie theaters, industry observers said.

The summer's other hit films -- "Robin Hood," "Naked Gun 2 1/2 " and "City Slickers" -- continued to perform very well despite the wide gulf between them and the Schwarzenegger Storm.

The huge numbers buoyed film industry spirits and gave a shot to a summer season that has been relatively placid up to this point. John Krier of the box-office data service Exhibitor Relations Co. predicted that ticket sales for the week may be close to breaking industry records.

Based on industry estimates, and numbers from distributor Tri-Star Pictures, "Terminator 2" had thefilm industry's best opening day -- $12 million -- since "Batman" in June 1989, when it sold a staggering $15 million in one day. In both cases, the figures lumped together figures from the pre-opening night's "preview" screenings.

Comparisons are difficult, if not impossible, to make, said Mr. Krier because "Batman" was not a sequel, and it did not open during a long, holiday weekend.

"Terminator 2," on the other hand, entered the marketplace with a popular star, and rides on the reputation of the 1984 sleeper hit that also starred Mr. Schwarzenegger as a mechanical emissary from the future.

"In a word, we feel extraordinary-ecstatic-elated," said Larry Kasanoff, the head of Lightstorm Entertainment, which produced "Terminator 2" for Carolco Pictures.

"And they were worried . . ." he added. "All of the theys who doubted the extra money that [Carolco's chairman] Mario Kassar ordered spent on the special effects and the rush to meet the opening deadline."

According to industry sources, the production ended up costing about $90 million (including $15 million for Mr. Schwarzeneggar), plus marketing fees.

But with a $52.8 million opening, "Terminator 2" is well-positioned to recoup that investment, based on the long-term life of films in their various formats both here and abroad. Mr. Kasanoff said "Terminator 2" will reach Japan and some European markets by August.

Usually, the film industry charts grosses based on figures from three-day weekends -- Friday, Saturday and Sunday. On this basis, estimates for "Terminator 2" numbers were equally outstanding: $30 million. That compares to the next-highest film, Paramount Pictures' "Naked Gun 2 1/2 ," which sold $12.3 million in tickets in as many days.

During the same period, estimates show that Warner Bros.' "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," with Kevin Costner, captured $10.7 million; Columbia Pictures' durable "City Slickers," with Billy Crystal, drew $8.4 million, and Disney's adventure "The Rocketeer" flew to $5.1 million.

Universal Pictures' "Problem Child 2" generated about $5.2 million in its opening weekend. And 20th Century Fox's "Dying Young," starring Julia Roberts, slowed to a tearful $3.2 million.

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