'Can't Jump,' 'Basic Instinct' are neck and neck at box office

Those two tag teams of outstanding cinematic athletes -- "White Men Can't Jump's" Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, and "Basic Instinct's" Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas -- were neck and neck in the weekend box-office playoff.

In the end, Ron Shelton's basketball comedy nosed Paul Verhoeven's mixed-doubles sex thriller by less than $775,000.


Considering both pictures brought in more than $10 million apiece, the difference was negligible and -- at two-week and three-week cumulatives of just less than $30 million and $50 million, respectively -- "Jump" and "Instinct" are both well on their ways to the $100 million winners circle.

The performance of new films entering the market over the weekend reaffirmed (with a little paraphrasing) that William Randolph Hearst adage: "Give me a movie poster with a dog and a baby on it, and I'll give you a movie that sells." "Beethoven," the Benji-on-steroids kiddie comedy, had a $7.6 million, third-place debut worth barking about.


But there was much less to say about the fourth-place performance of Dolly Parton's "Straight Talk." With a $4.6 million opening weekend, the poorly reviewed Cinderella comedy should soon be relegated to the pumpkin patch.

"Thunderheart," the mystical murder mystery set on an Indian reservation, bowed in fifth place, but actually had a better per-screen average than the more widely distributed "Straight Talk." Still, Val Kilmer's ghost dance failed to drum up much more than $4.5 million.

The new cartoon feature, "Rock-a-Doodle," did cellar duty among new wide releases. With $2.6 million, this story of a rooster who thinks he raises the sun didn't see much light.

But the 10th-ranked "Doodle" still had a better weekend than double Oscar winner "Beauty and the Beast." The Disney cartoon added nearly $2 million to its already record-breaking treasure trove. But it was the only in-release Academy Award winner to enjoy a slight box-office gain over its previous, weekend.

Both "JFK" and "Bugsy" lost about 30 percent of their already meager remaining audiences, despite two wins each. And the Oscar-less "Prince of Tides," whose percentage drop was on a par with its winning competitors, still led "JFK" and "Bugsy" by more than $200,000.