'Last Action Hero' falls short of Columbia's high hopes for $20 million in its debut



If Columbia Pictures hadn't spent some $80 million to produce "Last Action Hero," and if the fantasy-action film didn't star the world's biggest box-office attraction, then a $15.2 million opening weekend might look good.

But those are big ifs.

The reality is that "Last Action Hero" had an opening that, by industry standards, was a disappointment, considering its budget, its star Arnold Schwarzenegger and the promotion that surrounded it.

The $15.2 million in ticket sales fell short of the $20 million that Columbia Pictures projected last week for the first weekend. The gross also barely surpassed the three-day opening figure for "Cliffhanger," an action movie starring Sylvester Stallone, who at one time commanded the box-office draw of Schwarzenegger.

"Last Action Hero," as well as every other movie now showing, was dwarfed by Steven Spielberg's dinosaur horror film "Jurassic Park," which has pulled in a record $120 million gross in 10 days. In the weekend just ended, distributor Universal Pictures projected a whopping gross of $36 million to $38 million.

Despite admiration for the "Jurassic Park" success, Hollywood's interest during the weekend was focused on how Schwarzenegger's heroics would fare against Spielberg's dinosaurs.

Going into the summer movie season, "Last Action Hero," had been tabbed in the industry as one of the season's biggest hits. As recently as March, theater exhibitors at an annual Las Vegas trade convention were widely enthusiastic about the movie. But doubts about its viability began to set in when two severely negative advance reviews of the film surfaced in two Hollywood-based show business newspapers.

There was hope in the film industry that movies like "Jurassic Park" and "Last Action Hero" would set off a huge movie-going summer. Instead, " 'Jurassic Park' has just consumed the entire marketplace," said 20th Century Fox Executive Vice President Tom Sherak. "We're all in its wake."

Meanwhile, the size of the movie audience has not grown, while the number of movies in the market has. Ticket sales for the weekend just ended were off a bit from the comparable weekend a year ago when "Batman Returns" opened.

With another $36 million to $38 million, "Jurassic Park" created box-office fireworks for a second consecutive weekend. Its drop from the opening weekend total of $50.2 million -- the biggest opening on record -- was a modest 20 percent to 23 percent.

On Saturday, the ninth day of release, "Jurassic Park" became the fastest film ever to hit the $100 million milestone. That beat "Batman," which reached the mark in 10 days in 1989.

Ranking third at the box-office for the weekend, according to estimates, was Tri-Star Pictures' "Cliffhanger," with $5.5 million and $58.5 million after four weekends of release. Fourth was the Disney Studios' Tina Turner biography, "What's Love Got to Do With It," with $3.6 million, and $5.4 million after two weekends in limited release.

Fifth was "Made in America," starring Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson, with $3.4 million and $34.5 million to date.

Other film grosses: "Guilty as Sin," $2.7 million; "Dave," $2.4 million," "Once Upon a Forrest," $2.2 million; "Menace II Society," $2 million; "Life With Mikey," $1.3 million; and "Much Ado About Nothing," $1.1 million.

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