If you judge by last weekend, the beginning of 1988 is looking a lot like the end of 1987 at the box office. Total theater receipts over the weekend were around $58 million, a startling figure for mid-January and a total that's almost a third higher than last year's. Martin Luther King Day has created a new three-day holiday weekend to draw moviegoers.

Last weekend, most of them were going to see comedies: "Good Morning, Vietnam" made close to $12 million, for Disney's biggest opening weekend ever; "Three Men and a Baby" passed the $100 million mark, the first Disney film ever to do so (those two films plus "Cinderella" helped Disney have its biggest-grossing weekend ever); "Moonstruck" went nationwide with a highly respectable $5 million; and "For Keeps" and the comedy-oriented "Return of the Living Dead, Part II" opened well.

Redford in 'The Way'?

There's been plenty of talk lately of reuniting producer Ray Stark and stars Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand for a sequel to "The Way We Were"; judging by some of the things Stark has said, the film -- to be titled "The Way We Are" -- is a distinct possibility. But one of the project's other indispensables, Redford, doesn't sound so optimistic: Early this week he told Daily Variety that there was only "a way outside chance" that the movie would ever happen.

This week, anyway, Redford has his hands full as the de facto host of the U.S. Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Redford's Sundance Institute now runs the festival, a low-key but increasingly influential gathering devoted almost exclusively to low-budget independent films of the type Redford's company makes and promotes. Entries this year include Louis Malle's "Au Revoir, Les Enfants," director Michael Hoffman's "Promised Land" (executive-produced by Redford), "Zelly and Me," with Isabella Rossellini and David Lynch, and "Tapeheads," a "Spinal Tap"-style comedy about the world of rock video.

Tax Trauma in 'Hollywood, D.C.'

Screen writer Larry Gelbart is working on a script about a major movie studio that owes so much in back taxes that the IRS winds up taking over and running the company. It's called "Hollywood, D.C." ... From the sublime to the vicious: As soon as he finishes editing "Bird," his movie biography of saxophonist Charlie Parker, Clint Eastwood will head to San Francisco to star in "The Dead Pool," his fifth movie as renegade cop "Dirty Harry" Callahan. Shooting starts Feb. 16 with Buddy Van Horn ("Any Which Way You Can") directing ... Whoopi Goldberg has often said she doesn't want to restrict herself to traditional women's roles -- and while her choice in films has been mostly uninspired so far, she's about to try again, in a role written for a man. She's just postponed her upcoming concert tour to star with Jim Belushi in "Homer and Eddie," an Andrei Konchalovsky-directed film due to start shooting next week in Los Angeles. Naturally, now that Whoopi's playing one of the leads, they'll have to change the name of the movie.

Not for Your Consideration

This week's Hollywood trade magazines contain the usual array of wishful-thinking Academy Award ads, from a two-page spread suggesting "Back to the Beach" for a handful of awards to one promoting Tony Scott as best director for "Beverly Hills Cop II."

But the best Oscar ad comes from a company that clearly knows its picture has no chance whatsoever: A back-cover ad in Monday's Variety was headlined "Attention Academy Members," and went on to suggest "Surf Nazis Must Die" for best picture, best director, best actor and actress, best screenplay and best cinematography. And in the best Academy Award ad tradition, those suggestions were backed up by a pair of critics' quotes: a Hollywood Reporter blurb calling the movie "a brainy wonderfully disturbed movie experience," and a quote that simply read "Much Better Than Platoon." This one, the ad said, came from the "Troma Times." Troma Inc. is the company that released "Surf Nazis Must Die."