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Powerhouses Fuel Sales at Box Office

Movies: 'True Lies,' 'Forrest Gump' and 'The Lion King' are on target to break a record for non-holiday weekend ticket sales.


The movie industry on Sunday appeared headed for a record $105-million nonholiday weekend box-office gross, led by three powerhouse movies: "True Lies" starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, "Forrest Gump" with Tom Hanks and Walt Disney Pictures' animated film, "The Lion King."

If the weekend estimates hold up when final figures are released today, the total will break the record established only a year ago on the weekend of July 9-11, when four hit movies dominated the market, accounting for about 60% of ticket sales. Those films were "Jurassic Park," "The Firm," "In the Line of Fire" and "Sleepless in Seattle."


For the past weekend, only three films were taking in nearly 70% of all the dollars plunked down for admission.

On Sunday, with theaters still open, studio executives who track box-office trends offered estimates that the weekend take would range from $102 million to $110 million. But all agreed that no matter how it was calculated, a record would be achieved. And the increase would outpace the rate of ticket inflation, they said.

Exhibitor Relations Co., which compiles grosses on films making more than $500,000 a week, calculated last summer's record weekend at $100 million. John Krier, president of the firm, said this weekend would easily top that.

"Seldom do you see such powerhouses in the market," said Krier. "And seldom do you see films like 'Speed' and 'Forrest Gump' show such staying power in the face of severe competition."

The 20th Century Fox release of "True Lies," a $100-million production that reunited Schwarzenegger with the director of his successful "Terminator" movies, James Cameron, drew an estimated $26.2 million for the Friday-through-Sunday period. Preview showings around the nation on Thursday generated $1.6 million, giving the action film a total of $27.8 million to date.

After last summer's less-than-dazzling debut of Schwarzenegger's "Last Acton Hero," which nevertheless went on to a successful box-office run, there had been a lot of industry speculation about the potential for "True Lies." It is a costly film and its opening date was postponed from the July 4th weekend to July 15, which sometimes can signal a production in trouble.

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