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'90 SUMMER MOVIES ARE EXPECTED TO SMASH BLOCKBUSTER '89 RECORDS

So what are the odds on the summer movie sweepstakes, you ask? What's the buzz, as they say in Hollywood?

There's some argument in the industry as to whether Schwarzenegger or Cruise will run away with the biggest box-office grosses of the next three months, but it's generally agreed this is going to be an even more remarkable bonanza movie season than last year's record-setting summer.That seems reasonable.

In 1989 - over the entire 12 months - a record eight movies crossed over the $100 million mark: "Batman," "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," "Rain Man," "Lethal Weapon 2," "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," "Ghostbusters II," "Twins" and "Look Who's Talking."

Let's remember that "Rain Man" and "Twins" opened at the end of 1988 and "Look Who's Talking" didn't open until October. But the other five were all summer '89 releases.

Five $100 million moneymakers in a three-month period - or eight in one year, for that matter - was unheard of prior to 1989.

Hollywood was understandably feeling fat and sassy.

But not so sassy it could have predicted what would come next.

In 1990 - for just the first five months - we've already had five movies pass the $100 million mark: "Pretty Woman," "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," "The Hunt for Red October," "Driving Miss Daisy" and "Back to the Future, Part II."

"Future II," of course, opened late in '89, as did "Driving Miss Daisy" in just a few large urban cities, but the other three are 1990 spring players. This, according to the trade paper Variety, is unprecedented. In a few past years maybe one movie would reach $100 million before the summer film season began - but five? Never.

What does all this have to do with this year's summer films, which, of course, is how this column started?

Industry seers are generally calling Tom Cruise's "Days of Thunder" and Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Total Recall" the year's most obvious front-runners in this summer's box-office sprint. No one seems to think they will do "Batman's" $250 million business or end up in the all-time top 10, but they should easily pass that coveted $100 million mark - Hollywood's equivalent of the music industry's "going platinum."

Others predicted to be $100 million sure things? "Back to the Future, Part III," "Another 48 Hrs." and Disney's much-hyped "Dick Tracy."

In the maybe category are "Die Hard 2," "Robocop II" and "Gremlins 2," which will depend on how fondly fans remember each film's predecessor.

Possible sleepers, according to Hollywood insiders, could be "Presumed Innocent," a thriller based on the popular novel, starring Harrison Ford; "Ghost," the Patrick Swayze supernatural comedy-drama directed by one-third of the "Airplane!"-"Naked Gun" team, Jerry Zucker; and the Steven Spielberg horror yarn "Along Came a Spider."

If half or even a quarter of these films do in fact earn $100 million, 1990 will easily smash last year's numbers, which, at the end of '89, most of Hollywood felt would remain in the record books for several years to come.

- THE INVENTION OF the VCR is without question a movie buff's favorite dream come true. And the recent spate of reduced-price, sell-through videos is a close second.

The drawback, of course, is that we are at the mercy of movie studios that seem to release titles on the basis of whim rather than audience desire.

How else can you explain the huge volume of terrible movies that couldn't last more than a few days in theaters only months ago but are immediately released on video, while oft-requested classics like "Harvey," "Random Harvest," "You Can't Take It With You" and "An Affair to Remember" have only come to video during this past year?

Lately, however, MGM/UA and Paramount seem to be paying better attention to the video-renting and video-buying public. They are not only releasing a surprising number of old movies on video on a regular basis, but they are pricing them at $14.95 to $19.95 so we working stiffs can afford to buy them rather than rent them 20 times.

Among the choice, first-time selections scheduled for release on home video in the next few weeks are "The Americanization of Emily," a romantic comedy with James Garner, Julie Andrews and James Coburn; "The Loved One," a dark cult favorite with Robert Morse, Rod Steiger, Jonathan Winters and Liberace; the stop-smoking satire "Cold Turkey," with Dick Van Dyke and Bob Newhart, among others; "Smile," a satire of beauty pageants starring Bruce Dern and featuring as contestants the very young Melanie Griffith and Annette O'Toole; Jerry Lewis' first movie without Dean Martin, "The Delicate Delinquent"; "Fancy Pants," the Bob Hope-Lucille Ball remake of "Ruggles of Red Gap"; and Frank Capra's musical-comedy "Here Comes the Groom," with Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman.

- QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Jacqueline Bisset, interviewed by Jim Jerome for Us magazine's May 14 issue to promote the current "Wild Orchid," about being offered "91/2 Weeks" by the same director, Zalman King:

"He and I went through almost a year of discussion on `91/2 Weeks.' I was trying to find a way of doing (the Kim Basinger role) that I could live with. I just didn't want to do a lot of nudity and all that stuff, but I was interested in the idea. I thought it was quite romantic, in a raw way."