‘Hero’: When $15 Million Isn’t Quite Enough : Movie box office: By Hollywood standards, the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle opens poorly. But Columbia is ‘very, very, very happy with it.’


If Columbia Pictures hadn’t spent something like $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 moviegoing 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.

One consequence of the “Jurassic Park” phenomenon has been to warp the box-office perspective.

That was the thinking that “Last Action Hero” distributor Columbia sought to convey on Sunday as it announced the $15.2-million opening weekend estimate, which included $1.1 million from Thursday night previews.

“We’re very, very, very happy with it,” said Sid Ganis, Columbia president of marketing and distribution. “In the normal course of business, $15.2 million is an outstanding opening weekend. Then there are the unusual opening weekends, and, of course, ‘Jurassic Park’ falls into that category.” (The $50.2-million “Jurassic Park” opening weekend, June 11-13, set an industry record.)


“ ‘Last Action Hero’ opened extremely well against real tough competition,” Ganis said. He anticipates “Last Action Hero” will hit $100 million in ticket sales, based on the opening weekend grosses for two previous Schwarzenegger movies, “Twins” ($11.1 million) and “Kindergarten Cop” ($11.2 million), both of which went on to top $100 million.

Sherak, from rival studio Fox, and other studio sources agreed that, in general, a $15.2-million opening weekend is something no one would mind, any time of the year.

“You can’t compare anything to ‘Jurassic Park,’ ” Sherak said. “There’s only a handful of movies in that category. It has become an event.”

With another $36 million to $38 million, “Jurassic Park” created box-office fireworks for a second consecutive weekend. It’s drop from the opening weekend total of $50.2 million--the biggest opening on record--was a modest 20% to 23%.


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.