‘Thunder’ Sputters in Box-Office Race

The Tom Cruise stock car racing film “Days of Thunder,” a movie that falls somewhere between a remake of and a sequel to Paramount’s 1986 blockbuster “Top Gun,” got off to a surprisingly slow start. The movie grossed less than the premieres of either “Total Recall” or “Dick Tracy,” despite a five-day opening during the summer break from school.

Figures were incomplete Sunday afternoon, but using Paramount’s official estimates for the first four days and Sunday estimates of industry analysts, “Days of Thunder” took in less than $22 million, a per-screen average of about $9,500 at 2,307 theaters around the country.

Earlier this summer, “Total Recall” opened over a three-day weekend with $25.5 million in 2,060 theaters, for a per-screen average of $12,395. Two weeks ago, “Dick Tracy” took in $22.5 million during its three-day opening.

The reviews for “Days of Thunder” were mixed, but according to Cinemascore, a national movie exit-poll service, Paramount will benefit from strong word-of-mouth. Moviegoers polled after Wednesday-night screenings in two cities gave the film an overall rating of A, and Cinemascore, combining a variety of factors, said there is a 94% chance that people who like the idea of this movie will like the movie, too.

Predictably, the film appealed more to younger audiences, but not by that much. Moviegoers under 25 gave “Days of Thunder” an A; the over-25 group gave it an A-. The audience was split down the middle between men and women, with women rating it A and men giving it an A-.


“Days of Thunder” has a long way to go to match “Top Gun’s” immense $176.7 million gross. “Top Gun” was released in May 1986, and did only $8.1 million during its three-day opening. But by the time school was out, it was a runaway hit.

No figures were available Sunday for “Dick Tracy,” “Total Recall,” “RoboCop 2" and the other hot summer movies.