HOLLYWOOD -- The opening of boy-rents-girl drama 'Indecent Proposal' sold an impressive $2.9 million worth of tickets at 1,672 screens in its first day in theaters.
Paramount Pictures said 'Proposal,' starring Robert Redford as a mysterious financier and Woody Harrelson and Demi Moore as a married couple, took in nearly 40 percent of the North American box office gross Wednesday.
The first-day results were a strong indication that the high-cost movie could take in as much as $20 million in its first five days, including $15 million during the Friday-through-Sunday weekend.
By comparison, 20th Century Fox's first day of 'The Sandlot,' a nostalgic look at baseball-playing youngsters in 1962, took in $422,706 at 1,566 screens. It will probably do about $3 million of business over the weekend.
Paramount has spent heavily on promoting the film, on which it began showing trailers during the Christmas season, with a focus on the steamier parts of the film. Moore's torso and legs, clad in nothing but a bikini brief and surrounded by cash, dominate one of the print ads.
In 'Indecent Proposal,' Redford's character offers Harrelson and Moore $1 million for a one-night stand with Moore.
The ad campaign may be key, since many reviews of the movie have been brutal. The San Francisco Chronicle called it 'the dumbest film of the year' and the Hollywood Reporter said, 'Not since the invention of the padded bra has nothing stood out so prominently and, ultimately, delivered so little.'
The film has hit at a soft time for moviegoing with only three entries -- Columbia's 'Groundhog Day,' Universal's 'Scent of a Woman' and Miramax's 'The Crying Game' -- racking up better-than-expected grosses in the past three months. Last weekend's No. 1 movie, kid-comedy 'Cop and a Half,' grossed $6 million at 1,604 screens during the Friday-through-Sunday weekend.
Paramount's most recent release, UFO adventure 'Fire in the Sky,' will probably not make it to more than $20 million. Its other 1993 release, 'The Temp,' was an outright flop with barely $6 million in addition to provoking vitriolic reviews.
'Proposal' was produced by Sherry Lansing, who took over the film studio last fall after the unexpected departure of Brandon Tartikoff. The film's director is Adrian Lyne, who specializes in glossy female- oriented films ('Flashdance,' '9 Weeks' and 'Fatal Attraction).
Paramount is clearly hoping that the heavy promotion of a movie released outside the two key moviegoing seasons -- Christmas and summer -- will break out of the pack and duplicate successes from early last year when its 'Wayne's World' and TriStar's 'Basic Instinct' both topped $115 million.