"Child's Play 2" made more money than just about anybody expected and buried the competition last weekend -- but even with that showing, the horror sequel only wound up as the second-biggest news of the week at the box office. That's because if you look at earnings per screen, "Dances With Wolves" is now the year's biggest movie. Playing on only 14 screens in eight cities, it averaged a remarkable $42,733 per screen -- five times as much as anything else and eight times as much as "Child's Play 2," which had the best average among the Top Ten films.
"Ghost," incidentally, saw its business jump by more than a third last weekend, which some observers attribute to the publicity it received when it passed "Pretty Woman" as the year's top-grossing film. If reports of box office success entice viewers into the theaters, then "Dances With Wolves" should be ready to explode when it opens nationwide Wednesday -- after all, it had its great opening in the face of countless articles and television spots that pointed out how westerns don't do well, how three-hour movies don't have as much chance to make money, how subtitled movies are a tough sell, and how everybody thought Kevin Costner was crazy for making a three-hour, subtitled western.
Speaking of big money, a recent estimate says that Hollywood may have lost $1 billion to the film industry in India over the past decade. In that country, it turns out, plagiarism is commonplace: Rather than paying $100,000 or so for the rights to remake an American film, Indian moviemakers simply take U.S. hits, rewrite them slightly, increase the level of melodrama and in many cases add a few songs also lifted from American movies. For instance, this year's two biggest movies, "Pretty Woman" and "Ghost," have each spawned three or four unauthorized Indian copies. The only time Hollywood has acted against the filmmakers came 20 years ago, when Warner Bros. sued the producer of "Khoon Khoon" for remaking "Dirty Harry" scene-for-scene. Since then, though, Indian moviemakers have been careful not to copy entire movies slavishly. Instead, they combine a few different movies into one "new" creation.
Women Behind Spanish Bars
Movies about women's prisons usually figure to be low-budget exploitation outings, but there's one in the works that may be a bit more respectable -- and also, perhaps, more controversial -- than usual. This one is by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, who was embroiled in disputes earlier this year when the ratings board gave an X to his "Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!" Titled "Tacones Lejanos" (which one amateur translator has turned into "Distant High Heels"), it will feature "Tie Me Up!" stars Victoria Abril and Esperanza Roy as two women adapting to prison life. Almodovar, by the way, just received this year's Spanish National Cinematography Prize. Many view the award as a way of compensating him for the fact that "Ay Carmela!" rather than "Tie Me Up!" was chosen to be Spain's official entry in the Academy Awards' foreign language category.
His role as a pilot didn't go over too well at the box office in "Air America," but Mel Gibson will be back behind the controls of an airplane in "The Rest of Daniel," a drama for Warner Bros. But this time he's a test pilot just before World War II who volunteers for a cryogenics experiment that freezes him for 50 years. Gibson will also produce ... This sounds like the basis for a malpractice suit: "Tough Luck," which writer-producer Peter Lenkov is writing for Universal, is about a badly burned firefighter whose face is reconstructed to make him look just like an international hit man. The movie is described as an action thriller ... As more porno makers are announcing plans to take advantage of the new NC-17 rating and have their X movies re-rated -- in the process igniting new criticism of the recently overhauled ratings system -- foreign critics are also calling for a change in the ratings system in Belgium. That country's film inspectors simply decide which films can be seen by viewers under 16 -- but it seems that they're too strict for many, especially after prohibiting the under-16 crowd from seeing "Batman."