Measuring its effect on the motion picture box office is, of course, a trivial and perhaps troubling way to view the war -- but inescapably, it's one way in which Hollywood is looking to the Persian Gulf these days. And as it turns out, moviegoers responded to the news from overseas by staying at home for a couple of days, then heading to the theaters in unexpectedly large numbers. Business was down sharply after the hostilities began a week ago Wednesday -- but by the weekend, enough people went to the movies to push grosses up 8 percent over the previous weekend, and up a startling 58 percent over the comparable weekend last year.
The biggest beneficiary of the surge in attendance was "Home Alone," which has now been the nation's top-grossing movie for 10 consecutive weeks. The all-time record for the most weeks at No. 1 is 14, set by "Beverly Hills Cop." The John Hughes-produced comedy is also zeroing in on a couple of other milestones: This weekend it'll become only the third movie in the past year to pass the $200 million mark ("Pretty Woman" and "Ghost" being the others), and within another week or so it'll pass "Ghost" to become the biggest moneymaker among 1990's films.
Movies with a possible connection to the gulf war, incidentally, fared poorly at the box office last weekend. The Sally Field drama "Not Without My Daughter," which is set in Iran and has led to protests over its anti-Arab stance, dropped 18 percent from its already lackluster figures from the previous weekend. And the Vietnam action film "Flight of the Intruder" -- of which the Hollywood Reporter said, " ... the Iraqi factor may have created a receptive audience for this jingoistic claptrap" -- edged out "White Fang" to become the weekend's top new release, but its figures were well short of what's expected of a big-budget adventure movie.
Short Takes The title characters in Terrence McNally's play "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune" are a pair of ordinary, working-class, distinctly non-glamorous New Yorkers struggling to build a relationship; onstage, the role of Frankie was originated by Kathy Bates, the actress who currently stars in Rob Reiner's "Misery." But the play may have to be rewritten in its transition to the movie screen: When "Pretty Woman" director Garry Marshall begins shooting the film version next week for Paramount, he'll have Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino in the central roles. And the name of the work has been shortened to "Frankie and Johnny" -- not to be confused with the lousy 1936 musical drama of the same name, or with the lousy 1966 Elvis Presley picture of the same name ... 20th Century Fox, meanwhile, has just acquired distribution rights to "Videodrome" and "Dead Ringers" director David Cronenberg's movie version of the William Burroughs novel "Naked Lunch." The cast includes Peter Weller, Roy Scheider, Julian Sands and Judy Davis; according to Cronenberg, who began shooting this week, the movie will be "a fusion of my own work" with Burroughs's surreal novel ...
Hollywood is now in the heart of awards season: Not only have the Golden Globes been passed out and the Academy Award nominating ballots arrived in the hands of most voters, but plenty of other awards are being given. For instance, the American Society of Cinematographers has nominated the cinematographers of "Dick Tracy," "The Godfather Part III," "Avalon," "Ghost" and "Dances With Wolves" for this year's feature-film award ... The National Association of Theater Owners, meanwhile, has named "Cinema Paradiso" the winner of its first award for the year's best foreign film ... And finally, a panel of professionals at the First International Comedy Festival of Torremolinos in Spain just chose the five best comedy films of all time. The winners: Ernst Lubitsch's "To Be or Not to Be," Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot" and "The Apartment," Howard Hawks's "Bringing Up Baby" and the Spanish film "Bienvideo Mister Marshall."