Seagal Is Top Gun as 'Marked for Death' Sets Pace

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The fall moviegoing season got a lift from 20th Century Fox's new action film, "Marked for Death," which took in $10.5 million in opening weekend business. It's the third film to star newcomer Steven Seagal, who once served as super-agent Michael Ovitz's martial arts instructor.

"This is one of those surprises, like 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' earlier this year, and last year's 'Look Who's Talking,' that leaves the industry scratching their heads," said John Krier, president of Exhibitor Relations, which provides box office information to exhibitors.

"Marked for Death" notched one of the highest fall openings ever, following last year's "Look Who's Talking," which debuted with $12.1 million.

Disney's reissue of "Fantasia" rode the studio's strong 50th-anniversary promotion to a strong opening of approximately $5.2 million on just 461 screens, a per-screen average of $11,280. Universal Pictures' "Henry & June," a sexually provocative story about the real-life relationships between writers Anais Nin and Henry Miller and Miller's wife in 1931 Paris, reaped the benefits of a national ratings controversy and grossed $868,489 at 76 screens, for a per-screen of $11,427.

Fox's gangster saga, the Coen brothers' "Miller's Crossing," which just opened in Los Angeles, earned $587,878 on 66 screens, and Tri-Star Pictures' critically acclaimed "Avalon" did $184,489 on seven screens for an average of $26,424.

Fox's "Pacific Heights," which was No. 1 a week ago, slipped more than 25% over its previous opening weekend business, grossing $5 million, but still finished third in the standings. Fourth place went to Paramount Pictures' leggy "Ghost," which earned another $4.7 million. In fifth was Warner Bros.' "GoodFellas" with $4.5 million.

Warner Bros.' new documentary, "Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones," about the life and career of the legendary record producer, earned $83,988 on 26 screens, for a weak opening average of $3,230.

Among the weekend's other new titles, only MGM/UA's "The Desperate Hours"--the third film from director Michael Cimino since his ill-fated "Heaven's Gate" (1980)--failed to find an audience. In release at 1,032 screens, it had ticket sales of $1.3 million for a disastrous per-screen-average of $1,163 and a ninth-place ranking.

As for the film that found the biggest audience, "Marked for Death" is the second film starring Seagal to open big with action fans this year. Warners' "Hard to Kill," which opened in Febuary, debuted with $9.2 million and went on to earn $40 million.

Reportedly budgeted at a modest $11 million, "Marked for Death" stars Seagal as a former undercover DEA agent who comes out of retirement to do in the Jamaican drug dealers who have threatened his family.

"(Seagal) is for real," exclaimed an exuberant Tom Sherak, executive vice president of 20th Century Fox. "He is here to stay. I don't think there's anyone like him in his field."

Opening night exit polls promise more business for "Marked for Death." The film played strongest with young men under 25, according to the private polling service Cinemascore, but it also got surprisingly high marks from females. More than eight out of 10 people in the audience saw the movie because of it star, who's still unknown to most moviegoers.

WEEKEND BOX OFFICE

Movie Weekend Screens/ Weeks in Total (Studio) Gross Average Release Gross 1."Marked for Death" $10.5 1,968 1 $10.5 (20th Century Fox) Million $5,344 Million 2."Fantasia" $5.2 461 1 $5.2 (Buena Vista) Million $11,280 Million 3."Pacific Heights" $5.0 1,283 2 $14.0 (20th Century Fox) Million $3,953 Million 4."Ghost" $4.7 1,766 13 $161.5 (Paramount) Million $2,664 Million 5."GoodFellas" $4.5 1,328 3 $21.5 (Warner Bros.) Million $3,420 Million

SOURCES: Exhibitor Relations Co. and Times estimates.

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