'The Birdcage' Remains Top Draw at Box Office

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

"The Birdcage" clipped the wings of Warner Bros.' "Executive Decision" for a smooth flight into first place at the box office for the second consecutive weekend, according to early estimates Sunday. The Robin Williams comedy appeared headed for a weekend gross of $16 million, about $2 million below its debut weekend.

The film's nest was feathered by an addition of 286 theaters, and distributors industrywide said they expected the MGM/UA film version of the French hit "La Cage aux Folles" to be the first film of '96 to score $100 million at the box office.

"The amazing thing about this picture is the crossover. We are finding that a lot of families are seeing it because kids love it," noted Larry Gleason, head of MGM/UA's distribution. "Although there is a gay theme to it, it is playing as a broad physical Robin Williams comedy."

Still, the tally for "Executive Decision," starring Kurt Russell--and briefly--Steven Seagal, was nothing to sneeze at. That film, in its opening weekend, was coming in second over the three-day period with an estimated gross of $12.1 million.

It is the second action thriller to open well this year. The first was "Broken Arrow" starring John Travolta, a bigger box-office draw than Russell, which opened at $15 million. "Broken Arrow," in theaters for six weeks, remained in seventh place over the weekend capturing about $2.1 million.

"Executive Decision," a strong debut for director Stuart Baird, is about terrorists who want to wipe out the East Coast of the United States with nerve gas. Opposing them is a Department of Defense specialty group led by a bookish think tank consultant, Russell.

The films that opened over the weekend which were proving to be big disappointments were Universal's "Ed," the chimp buddy baseball movie starring Matt LeBlanc of the hit TV series "Friends," and Buena Vista's "Two Much," starring Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith and Daryl Hannah.

"Ed" was managing at least to stay in the top 10, scoring $2 million in a tie for eighth and ninth place against another Universal comedy, "Happy Gilmore," showcasing another TV comedic star, Adam Sandler. The latter film has been in theaters for five weeks.

But "Two Much," which opened fairly wide in 348 theaters, was doing a miserable $625,000 in ticket sales.

Still, Disney affiliates didn't have a totally embarrassing weekend, since three of their other pictures remained in the top 10. "Homeward Bound II," in its second week, was in third place with $5.8 million; "Up Close & Personal," starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Robert Redford, was closing in on fourth place with $5.4 million in its third week, and "Mr. Holland's Opus," refusing to give up, fell into sixth place with $2.3 million. That popular film starring Richard Dreyfus has grossed about $70 million over its nine-week run.

Others to make the list were Fox's "Down Periscope"--starring yet another actor from a hit TV comedy series, Kelsey Grammer of "Frasier"--which dropped to fifth place in its third week at $2.8 million, and New Line Cinema's Jackie Chan action comedy "Rumble In The Bronx," which dropped to 10th place in its fourth week of release with $1.9 million.

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