Dinosaurs lead stampede back to box office

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First Edition

AFTER dinosaurs eating lawyers, lawyers eating lawyers. As the advance bookings for Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park surpass pounds 1m, British cinema owners are hoping that more US hits will help turn a dismal spring into a highly profitable summer and autumn.

Top of the list is The Firm, based on a book about lawyers by John Grisham and starring Tom Cruise. In America, it has passed dollars 70m (pounds 48.2m) in three weeks. It should easily pass dollars 100m at the US box office, as should Sleepless in Seattle, a love story with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and In the Line of Fire, starring Clint Eastwood as a secret service agent who failed to stop Kennedy's assassination. All three films are due to open here in September.

Jurassic Park is being shown on 455 British screens, a quarter of the country's total. 'There has never been demand on this scale before,' said the film's distributors, UIP. In five weeks in America, it has made more than dollars 236m (pounds 162m), surpassing the last big summer moneyspinner, Batman, which at the same point had earned a mere dollars 193.9m.

Last week was the biggest in history for the US cinema box office, with takings of dollars 203m. About 15 million Americans went to the movies last weekend, buying dollars 103m worth of tickets, another record.

The only real disappointment of the season has been Arnold Schwarzenegger's Last Action Hero, which opens in Britain on 30 July. Despite its dollars 44m take, the film is regarded as a flop in light of the enormous hype surrounding it and costs rumoured to be about dollars 100m.

Oscar Moore, of Screen International, says that Jurassic Park's success is likely to spill over to other films shown in Britain. But very little of the money will be invested in the beleaguered British film industry.

According to Screen International, British subsidiaries of US studios have transferred pounds 1bn to their parent companies over the past four years, while declaring only pounds 42m in profit and paying pounds 14m in tax. 'An enormous amount of British leisure pounds are spent at the box office but are not flowing back into British movie production,' Mr Moore said. So while film attendance is up, production is down.

There is pressure to establish a fund to put money back into the British film industry before it, too, becomes extinct.

Dinosaurs lead stampede back to box office

(Photograph omitted)