The two bruisers have never met on the field of battle, but that doesn't mean we can't play a game of Rocky versus Rambo. "Rocky IV" opened a week ago to the biggest Christmas-season business ever, and the money it made puts it head-to-head with this year's big Memorial Day weekend opening of "Rambo: First Blood, Part II."
"Rocky IV" won the opening round because its Wednesday/Thursday total was about $11 million, almost $4 million more than the two-day "Rambo" figures. (Give the Italian Stallion extra points because Thanksgiving Day is usually a notoriously poor moviegoing day.) But "Rambo" took the next three rounds handily: Its Friday, Saturday and Sunday total was $25.5 million, while "Rocky IV" picked up about $19 million over those same days last weekend. Overall, "Rambo" has the opening-weekend edge, making $32.5 million in its first five days as opposed to "Rocky IV's" $31.8 million.
Still, you have to count the "Rocky" opening as the more impressive of the two: It came at a traditionally slower time of year -- and it also opened in 1,325 theaters, 750 fewer than "Rambo's" opening total. The Envelope, Please . . . ?
Most Hollywood studios haven't yet put their Academy Award campaigns into high gear, but it's getting easier to tell which films will receive the biggest pushes: Studios are beginning to announce their Oscar screening schedules for the next couple of months. At Universal Studios, Academy voters are invited to choose between five December/January screenings of "Mask," "The Breakfast Club" and -- wishful thinking time? -- "Fletch"; six for "Back to the Future" and 10 for the yet-to-be-released Robert Redford/Meryl Streep film, "Out of Africa."
For its part, Columbia has slated five December screenings for "Jagged Edge," "White Nights," "Agnes of God" and "A Chorus Line"; four for "Silverado" and the yet-to-be-released "Murphy's Romance"; three for "St. Elmo's Fire"; and two each for a couple of extreme dark-horse candidates, "Perfect" and "Fright Night."
And Tri-Star, which Columbia partially owns, has its own long shots: Academy members, if they're so inclined, can see one screening each of "Lifeforce," "Alamo Bay" and "The Legend of Billie Jean," or choose from two screenings of "Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon." Of course, Tri-Star also has some more substantial contenders, offering four looks at "Rambo" -- which might be in the running for some technical awards -- and seven at the studio's clear best shot, "Sweet Dreams." In Name Only
Is the Walt Disney name box-office poison for a film? That concern is one of the reasons Disney created the Touchstone Films logo for its less youth-oriented movies, but it's not always a problem. For its recent "The Journey of Natty Gann," Disney tested three different ad campaigns in traditionally strong Disney markets: One made the Disney name the focus of the campaign, one mentioned it in passing, and the last strongly de-emphasized it. In Boise, Idaho, and Phoenix, the cities where Disney was emphasized, business was up by 20 percent. Directors Anonymous
Just how inept is the two-year-old, recently-released med-school comedy "Stitches"? Well, direction of the movie is credited to Alan Smithee, which for years has been a well-known movie-business pseudonym used when, for some reason, none of the filmmakers want to use their real names -- except that it's supposed to be A-L-L-E-N Smithee, not A-L-A-N.