That's the conclusion many film industry analysts are drawing from the fact that the Mel Gibson action-comedy "Air America," a movie that was largely panned by critics, did strong opening weekend business, while the Jack Nicholson mystery, "The Two Jakes," which received mixed reviews, opened to business that qualifies it as a flop.
Paramount Pictures' "The Two Jakes," the long-delayed sequel to the revered 1974 "Chinatown," grossed $3.7 million at 1,206 theaters, for a per-screen average of about $3,092--and a seventh-place ranking among the films in release.
Tri-Star Pictures' "Air America," which stars Gibson and Robert Downey Jr. as pilots in a secret CIA operation during the Vietnam War, took in $8 million at 1,902 screens for $4,240 per screen and third place on the box-office chart.
But the biggest winner among new releases was Columbia Pictures' "Flatliners," which earned $10 million on 1,319 screens--for an average of $7,608 per screen. Starring an ensemble of popular young actors, including Julia Roberts of "Pretty Woman," the film about medical students who venture into near-death experiences apparently helped fill a void in the summer market for youth-oriented fare. It was further bolstered by a heavy television advertising campaign--and a trailer that began making its way into theaters in the spring.
Another film with youth appeal, 20th Century-Fox's "Young Guns II"--which also boasts an ensemble cast--performed solidly in its second week, with ticket sales of about $4.7 million, for sixth place.
Meanwhile, Paramount's "Ghost" continued to hold as the summer's surprise hit. Though the film dropped to second place--temporarily at least--it earned another $9.4 million. After five weeks, the romantic fantasy has now grossed more than $85 million.
Warner Bros.' courtroom thriller, "Presumed Innocent," earned approximately $7.9 million for fourth place.
The rest of the weekend's top 10:
"Problem Child" (Universal), fifth place with $4.8 million; "Arachnophobia" (Hollywood Pictures), eighth place with $3.6 million; "Die Hard 2" (Fox), ninth place with $3 million; "Ducktales: The Movie" (Walt Disney Studios), 10th place with $2.6 million.