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`LION KING,' `GUMP' LEAD WAY TO RECORD SUMMER AT MOVIES

Movie fans paid a record amount for tickets this summer, pushing Hollywood toward what could be a record-breaking $5.3 billion in sales for 1994.

With "The Lion King" and "Forrest Gump" leading the pack, summer ticket sales reached $2.2 billion as the Labor Day weekend closed out the season. That was up $100 million from last summer.It also marked the first year that eight summer releases collected more than $100 million each in the U.S. and Canada.

"It looks like a new record of $5.3 billion for the year," predicted Art Murphy, an analyst for Hollywood Reporter.

The previous record was last year's total of $5.2 billion.

"The big pictures were those with general appeal, reaching white-collar, blue-collar, adult and teenage audiences," said John Krier, whose Exhibitor Relations Co. monitors film grosses.

Furthermore, Krier said, "For the first time, an English film scored among the top 10. `Four Weddings and a Funeral' has earned $52 million. The audience out there does not have strictly a `Porky's' attitude."

Paramount boasted two champions: "Forrest Gump" with $222 million at last count and going strong and "Clear and Present Danger" at $86 million and counting.

Twentieth Century Fox also hit a double: "Speed," $113 million; and "True Lies," $127 million.

"The Lion King" ruled the summer with $257 million in the kitty. Other films that passed or were likely to pass the $100 million mark: "The Flintstones," $132 million; "Maverick," $96 million; and "The Mask," $92 million.

Phil Garfinkle, senior vice president of Entertainment Data Inc., said the summer's films showed stamina.

"What made this summer so great was that the hit pictures held so well," he said. "Usually the summer opens like gangbusters, then the pictures slack off in the latter part, and lesser releases fill in the gap. That didn't happen this year."