You may think of summer as a time to relax, but it's nail-biting season for major film studios. More than 100 movies will vie for attention from now till Labor Day. The hot weather months account for 40 percent of the movie industry's revenue for the year. Last summer that amounted to a record $1.6 billion. Result? The '88 race is even more fierce. If a movie fails at the box office—Whooom. "Theaters will quickly pull the plug and replace it," said Dennis McAlpine, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. But the rewards for winners are high. Last summer's Top 5 grossers (Beverly Hills Cop II, The Untouchables, Stakeout, The Witches of Eastwick and Dirty Dancing) together took in $422 million. What'll the Top 5 be this year? Chances are you'll find them on the following pages.
Men of Action: Paul Hogan's "Crocodile" Dundee II and Sly Stallone's Rambo III are already leading the macho assault on the the box office. Also expect Sean Connery and Mark Harmon in a military mystery, The Presidio; James Caan playing detective with an alien partner in Outer Heat; and Freddy Krueger raising hell again in Nightmare on Elm Street 4.
What gives? Big Business, featuring Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin as two mismatched sets of twins, is the only major comedy of the summer starring women. Director Jim Abrahams worried about the vanity problem. But not for long, says Abrahams: "One day the cameraman said, 'Hold it, Bette. You have something on your chin.' She wiped her chin. The cameraman said, 'No, no, the other one.' There was a hush. Then she laughed." Whew! So much for ego. For more yucks, check out the return of everybody's favorite robot, Number 5, in Short Circuit 2; Dan Aykroyd and John Candy at odds with country living in The Great Outdoors; Jackie Mason trying to join a country club in Caddy-shack II; Kevin Kline mixing it up with Monty Python vets John Cleese and Michael Palin in the sexy (thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis) farce A Fish Called Wanda; Jeff Goldblum climbing the mountains of Ecuador with Cyndi Lauper in Vibes; and Richard Dreyfuss as an American actor pretending to be a Caribbean dictator in Moon Over Parador.
Solid dramas for grown-ups in the summer? Don't teens rule the box office? Not quite. Last year, something unusual happened: Several big hits (The Untouchables, Witches of East-wick, Full Metal Jacket) did not pander to the youth audience. People over 30 accounted for 39 percent of tickets sold; an advance from 33.5 percent in 1984. "Adults want to go to movies," said Sidney Ganis, president of marketing for Paramount, "and will go if we give them more than just teenage films." So here goes. In addition to those movies pictured here, look for A World Apart, with Barbara Hershey (just named Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival) as a South African journalist fighting apartheid; A Handful of Dust, an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's 1934 novel of the British upper crust; Married to the Mob, with Michelle Pfeiffer as a Mafia widow in love with a G-man; Rocket Gibraltar, with Burt Lancaster as a patriarch at a traumatic family reunion; and Running on Empty, starring Judd Hirsch and Christine Lahti as '60s radicals who keep themselves and their two sons on the move to avoid capture for past crimes.