‘The Craft’ Has the Knack for Scaring Up an Audience


“The Craft,” which opened with some favorable reviews but not much advance attention, jumped ahead of the pack in the box-office race over the weekend, leaving behind highly promoted newcomers such as “Last Dance” starring Sharon Stone, “The Pallbearer” with David Schwimmer and “Barb Wire” featuring Pamela Anderson Lee.

A teen horror thriller, “The Craft” worked a little black magic for downtrodden Columbia Pictures, bringing in an estimated $7 million for a studio that’s been in serious need of a hit.

“It’s a sweet feeling to be No. 1 again. We certainly hoped this picture would do well, but I have to say it was a nice surprise,” said Jeff Blake, head of Sony Pictures/Columbia’s distribution, on Sunday. “The teenagers loved it because it was their movie and young women went for it because the sub-theme is about women taking control. We’ve had a lot of adult movies with big stars that haven’t worked or certainly opened like this. What this tells you is that kids still drive a movie.”


As for Stone’s less than smash opening, one source at Touchstone/Buena Vista--the studio that released the picture--said: “The audience is sending a message to Stone: ‘We want to see you in a certain kind of picture and this isn’t it.’ ”

Stone’s death-row inmate drama, which was in sixth place with an estimated $2.7 million in ticket sales, wasn’t the only prison picture opening the past weekend. On a per-screen average, her competitor, Miramax’s “Captives” starring Julia Ormond and Tim Roth, beat her film handsomely.

“Last Dance” brought in about $1,727 per screen, playing on 1,563 screens nationwide. “Captives,” a virtually un-hyped picture, captured about $5,000 per screen on only four screens.

The early results could further batter Stone’s reputation as a box-office draw after “The Quick and the Dead” earned $17.3 million (a cumulative gross as of March 14, 1995) and “Diabolique” garnered $15.8 million (cumulative gross as of last week). Stone was part of an ensemble cast in “Casino” in which she was nominated for an Oscar.

“Obviously, we hoped for a better performance from ‘Last Dance.’ I think it’s a disturbing subject matter that makes it difficult for a certain part of the audience,” noted Dick Cook, head of Buena Vista distribution. But Stone wasn’t the only star disappointed by early estimates of the three-day box-office weekend. “Pallbearer"--"Friends” TV star Schwimmer’s big screen debut--took in a modest $2.35 million on 829 screens to grab ninth place. Meanwhile, “Barb Wire,” starring Lee of “Baywatch” fame, was grossing an estimated $1.7 million on 1,312 screens. Her film debut didn’t appear to make the top 10.

Another picture with a TV star that opened to somewhat disappointing results was Damon Wayans in “The Great White Hype.” That film was in fifth place with about $3.3 million on 1,493 screens.

But Fox recouped with its hit “The Truth About Cats & Dogs,” which was in second place in its second week, with an estimated $6 million. To date, the film has taken in about $14.7 million.

Holdover films were still among the the top attractions. “The Quest” came in third with about $4.1 million; “Primal Fear” was fourth with about $3.75 million; and “The Birdcage"--this year’s biggest hit to date--was seventh with $2.5 million. In eighth place was “James and the Giant Peach” with an estimated $2.4 million, while “Mulholland Falls” dropped to the 10th spot with an estimated $2.27 million.