'Grease' Beats 'Primary' but Doesn't Rock the Boat

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The young, singing John Travolta proved more popular than the older, political one this weekend, when the re-release of the 1978 musical "Grease" soundly beat "Primary Colors" in its second weekend at the box office.

Neither the young nor the older Travolta could stop "Titanic," however. Buoyed by 11 Academy Awards, it steamed through its 15th consecutive weekend in the No. 1 box office berth, taking in $16 million for Paramount and 20th Century Fox. James Cameron's epic, which tied "Ben-Hur" as the most Oscar-winning film of all time, has now grossed a phenomenal $516 million domestically and more than $1 billion world wide.

Paramount's "Grease," which stars Travolta as a high school rebel who falls for the virginal Olivia Newton-John, was expected to take in $13 million by Sunday evening. Universal's "Primary Colors," which stars Travolta as a Clinton-esque governor stumping for a presidential nomination, grossed $7.3 million (compared to $12 million its first weekend).

Travolta wasn't the only star with two films at the top of the charts. "Titanic" heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio also had "The Man in the Iron Mask" from MGM/United Artists in the market. It finished fourth, with $6.6 million.

This is the only time two stars have had two films each at the top of the box office, according to John Krier, president of Exhibitor Relations Co., which tracks box office returns. All weekend figures are estimates based on Friday and Saturday ticket sales. Final figures will be released today.

"Grease," which now has a restored print and digitally remastered sound, grossed $153 million when it first came out. The anniversary edition is running on 2,064 screens, and had a per-screen average of about $6,300--more than the $4,950 made per screen by "Titanic." That victory pleased Allan Carr, who produced "Grease" and fought for its re-release.

To convince Paramount to reissue the musical, he pointed to the success of the soundtrack on CD, which continues to sell about 1.2 million units a year. Also, stage revivals of the musical have proven successful on Broadway and on a national tour.

"You can't kill 'Grease' with a stick," he said.

Carr went to see the movie again on Friday at Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood. Some 300 people--mostly teens--ran up to the front of the theater and spent the whole movie dancing beneath the giant screen. After songs were over, he said, the audience held lighters overhead, as if it were a rock concert.

"There are strange and wonderful social phenomenons going on around this film," Carr said.

"Grease" also got better reviews the second time around, Carr noted. "A lot of critics [originally] thought it was a light piece of fluff, which it is in a way," he said. "But now people get it as a classic of its time."

Sony's thriller "Wild Things" grossed $5.8 million over the weekend, putting it in fifth place.

Predictably, Oscar fallout helped Sony/Tristar's "As Good as It Gets" and Miramax's "Good Will Hunting," which each took in $4.3 million and tied for sixth place. Business was up 32% for "As Good as It Gets," whose stars Helen Hunt and Jack Nicholson both won best-acting Oscars. "Good Will Hunting," which won for original screenplay and supporting actor (Robin Williams) saw ticket sales rise 7%. "L.A. Confidential," which Warner Bros. released seven months ago, got a 14% Oscar boost, grossing $1.7 million over the weekend.

Other films in the top 10: No. 7, Warner Bros. "U.S. Marshals," with $4.2 million; No. 8, Fox's "The Newton Boys," with $4 million; New Line's "Mr. Nice Guy" and Miramax's "Ride" tied for ninth with $2.6 million. The Disney comedy "Meet the Deedles" came in 10th with $2.2 million.

"Character," the Oscar-winning foreign film from the Netherlands, also opened Friday, and grossed $35,000 on six screens. Other limited release films included Polygram's "The Proposition," which did $67,495 in business on 17 screens; Gramercy's "No Looking Back," which took in $41,213 on seven screens; and Miramax's "A Price Above Rubies," which grossed $36,000 on four screens.

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