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`DAYS OF THUNDER’ GARNERS $3.4 MILLION ON OPENING DAY

SHARE `DAYS OF THUNDER’ GARNERS $3.4 MILLION ON OPENING DAY

"Days of Thunder" starring Tom Cruise, Paramount Pictures' chief hope for a summer blockbuster, raced away with a solid $3.4 million in ticket sales on its first day of release, the largest weekday gross for any movie this year, the studio reports.

The film, on which Paramount spent an estimated $40 million, drew an average of $1,466 per screen in 2,307 theaters when it left the starting line Wednesday.Paramount has been aggressive in promoting the movie, with an ad campaign highlighting Cruise, perhaps the most bankable star in Hollywood. But reviews of the movie, produced by "Top Gun" team Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, have been mixed.

Still, industry analysts agreed that the opening day figures looked good.

"I think it would be hard to get a much better opening," said Jeffrey Logsdon of Crowell Weedon & Co. "It's probably going to be one of the top three movies this year."

"It's a good opening," agreed Alex Ben Block, editor of the trade publication Show Biz News. "But it's not much of a movie, so it's going to rely mostly on Tom Cruise's likeability and I think it will fade rather quickly."

Although the studios have been trying hard, this year's crop of summer films have yet to match the performance of Warner Bros.' "Batman," which made over $250 million last year and set a record for a three-day weekend opening with $42.7 million.

The top opening weekend so far this year came in Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Total Recall," with $25.5 million.

"A movie like `Batman' comes along once every 10 years, so I think its record is safe," Block said. "But we'll probably see a lot of films do more than $100 million this year."

Thus far, three movies released in 1990 have crossed that barrier: Disney's "Pretty Woman" ($144 million); New Line's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" ($126 million) and Paramount's "Hunt for Red October" ($115 million).

But "Total Recall" has been the best performer so far among the summer crop, with a gross of more than $81 million since its June 1 release. Universal's "Back to the Future Part III" and Paramount's "Another 48 HRS" have produced adequate grosses, but nothing particularly impressive.

The remaining major contender is Fox's "Die Hard 2," which will open on the Fourth of July. "Fox may have made the right move by separating it from the rest of the pack," Block noted.