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This is the time of year when we expect to see all kinds of new movies, but for some reason the usual Christmas glut wound down to a trickle as December rolled along.

The reasons have to do with postponements and an unusual number of "platform" film situations."Platforming" is when movies open in selected urban markets - usually Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Toronto - then gradually open in the hinterlands, eventually coming to smaller urban markets like Salt Lake City.

For example, last year "Good Morning, Vietnam," "Moonstruck," "Ironweed" and "The Last Emperor" opened in Salt Lake theaters in January and February, but began playing in the big cities in December 1987.

Likewise, "Gorillas in the Mist," "Bird" and "Without a Clue" opened elsewhere in the early fall and didn't come here until several weeks later.

So when you read about such movies as "Mississippi Burning," "Talk Radio," "Beaches," "Torch Song Trilogy," "The Accidental Tourist" and "Things Change" in national publications, they have already opened in Los Angeles, etc., but won't come here for a few more weeks.

In terms of sheer numbers, there are more "platformed" movies this year than in recent memory, which means there have been fewer major releases during December.

In December only 18 movies opened in Salt Lake City, while the average for other months during the year was 25. And half of the 18 December flicks were not major releases - they were little art films and exploitation pictures.

And some movies we initially scheduled for Christmas release didn't open anywhere, despite massive publicity to the contrary, such as "Old Gringo," a western with Gregory Peck and Jane Fonda; "Her Alibi," a thriller with Tom Selleck; "Physical Evidence," a thriller with Burt Reynolds and Theresa Russell; "Three Fugitives," a comedy with Nick Nolte and Martin Short; "Farewell to the King," an adventure with Nick Nolte; "Tap," a musical-drama with Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr.; "The Experts," a comedy-thriller with John Travolta; and "Chances Are," with Cybill Shepherd.

These will all come along early in 1989.

Meanwhile, there are still some fine movies in local theaters where you can spend some of your leftover Christmas money (you charged everything, right?): "Rain Man," "A Cry in the Dark," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" and "Without a Clue" are your best bets.

Also good are "Gorillas in the Mist," "The Naked Gun," "Working Girl," "Vincent" (at the Cinema in Your Face!) and - if you're in the mood for golden oldies - the double-bill of "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Here Comes Mr. Jordan" at the Avalon.

And, beginning Wednesday, the last movie of the year for Salt Lake City, the extraordinary documentary "The Thin Blue Line," at the Blue Mouse.

-VIDEO STORES, and specifically the so-called "superstores" that stock 569 copies of "E.T." or "Top Gun" on their rental shelves, have been growing like gangbusters in the Salt Lake Valley lately.

The most recent huge-inventory stores to come along have been Blockbuster Video, Video Excitement and Major Video, the latter with no less than three outlets in the area.

Then there are Rocky Mountain Video and Screenplay Video, among others.

These stores not only are more likely to have what someone is looking for; many also rent for three days instead of just overnight.

Yet, despite the enormous numbers of tapes in these stores they still do not cater very well to the foreign-film buff or those looking for off-the-wall titles (though Screenplay and Blockbuster have the best inventories of the latter).

It's apparent, though, that if the trend continues, the little Mom-and-Pop shops will soon be forced out of business. And that's too bad.

But, as with the number of movie theaters in the Salt Lake Valley, we are also overbuilt in terms of video stores - not to mention that there are also video rental units in everything from grocery stores to gas stations these days.

It is intriguing, however, to see how the stores compete with each other, not only in special sales, deals and markdowns, but also in just choosing an unusual name for the store.

Just as the newest movie theaters have resorted to numbers - Movies 7, Cinemas 5 - so the video stores are trying to come up with something just bizarre enough to attract attention. So far we haven't had a video store with a name as zany as the theater called Cinema in Your Face! But we may be on the way.

Blockbuster Video, Video Excitement and Screenplay Video are certainly unique. Major Video is a little more run-of-the-mill.

But how about Top Hat Video? Or Superstar Video.

Video to Go is interesting, and Sounds Easy may have to change its name to Sounds and Looks Easy.

And, of course, Video Voyager and Video Vern's.

Then there's the simple, unpretentious name: Video Time, Video World, The Video Shop, Video Room and - these two say it all - Video Rental Store and Rent-A-Flick.

There's also the store that tries to be accurate, Collectables Video, which deals mainly in classics and oldies (a la Avalon Video). Or Family


1. TWINS, $8 million ($22 million, two weeks).

2. Rain Man, $7 million (first week).

3. The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! $51/2 million ($26 million, three weeks).

4. Scrooged, $41/2 million ($42 million, four weeks).

5. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, $4 million (first week).

6. Tequila Sunrise, $3 million ($17 million, three weeks).

7. Oliver & Company, $21/2 million ($22 million, five weeks).

8. The Land Before Time, $11/2 million ($28 million, five weeks).

9. My Stepmother Is an Alien, $1 million ($4 million, two weeks).

10. Ernest Saves Christmas, $950,000 ($25 million, six weeks).