HOLLYWOOD -- The opening of 'The Fugitive' broke out in the top spot at the nation's box office with $23.8 million at 2,340 screens during the Friday-through-Sunday period -- the best August debut ever.
The Warner Bros.' release, powered by excellent reviews, a well- crafted marketing campaign, a spectacular train wreck and the draw of Harrison Ford in the role of Dr. Richard Kimble, took in two-and-half times as much as the nearest rival, 20th Century Fox's 'Rising Sun.'
'The Fugitive,' based on the mid-1960s TV series starring David Janssen, should take in somewhere between $150 million and $200 million as it will probably not face major competition for the rest of the month.
D. Barry Reardon, president of Warner's distribution arm, said exit polls showed strong responses from every demographic.
A strong performance by 'The Fugitive' just about guarantees the summer will set a box office record. The Hollywood Reporter said Monday that the season's total had hit $1.6 billion, 28 percent above last summer's total to the same point and 5 percent ahead of 1989's record- setting pace.
Two other new comedies performed dismally, with MGM's 'Meteor Man' in ninth with $2.6 million at 1,060 screens, and Disney's 'My Boyfriend's Back' dead on arrival at $1.5 million at 1,165 screens.
Universal showed sneak previews over the weekend of its comedy 'Heart and Souls' and reported that 95 percent of viewers rated the film, which will open Friday, as excellent or very good. However, 'The Fugitive' will probably lead the box office for several more weeks.
Also opening this weekend are Paramount's 'Searching for Bobby Fischer,' the story of a 7-year-old chess prodigy, Warner's 'The Secret Garden' and New Line Cinema's 'Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday.'
The second weekend of 'Rising Sun' lost about 40 percent of its debut weekend audience, but still took in an impressive $9.1 million at 1,675 screens to push its 10-day total past $31 million. It will probably hit about $50 million to $60 million, an adequate performance considering its $40 million price tag.
A quartet of long-running summer hits took the next four places, led by Columbia's 'In the Line of Fire' in third with $5.8 million at 1, 925 screens to push its 31-day total past $77 million. Warner's 'Free Willy' followed with $5.4 million at 1,847 screens to swim past $45 million in 24 days.
Universal's mega-hit 'Jurassic Park' chomped down on $5.1 million at 1,906 screens in its ninth weekend to move past $292 million after 60 days. Paramount's sixth weekend of 'The Firm' finished sixth with $4.7 million to push its take over $133 million.
Fox's second weekend of 'Robin Hood: Men in Tights' posted a moderate seventh place finish with $4.5 million at 1,402 screens, followed by TriStar's seventh weekend of 'Sleepless in Seattle' at $3. 7 million at 1,408 screens to go past $96 million.
Moviegoers' romance with Columbia's 'Poetic Justice' continued to fade quickly as the film finished 10th with $2.1 million at 1,170 screens, just two weekends after leading the box office.
Also disappearing quickly was TriStar's second weekend of 'So I Married An Axe Murderer' with $1.7 million at 1,355 screens and Miramax's second weekend of 'Tom and Jerry -- The Movie' with just $676,389 at 804 screens.
Samuel Goldwyn's limited opening of 'Wedding Banquet' posted a strong $134,870 at seven screens and will be rolled out on Aug. 27.
Weekend gross, screens, total gross, weeks in release:
1. 'The Fugitive,' $23.8 million, 2,340, 1 week.
2. 'Rising Sun,' $9.1 million, 1,675, $31.1 million, 2 weeks.
3. 'In the Line of Fire,' $5.8 million, 1,925, $77.4 million, 5 weeks.
4. 'Free Willy,' $5.4 million, 1,847, $45.3 million, 4 weeks.
5. 'Jurassic Park,' $5.1 million, 1,906, $292.2 million, 9 weeks.
6. 'The Firm,' $4.7 million, 1,812, $133.3 million, 6 weeks.
7. 'Robin Hood: Men in Tights,' $4.5 million, 1,402, $18.4 million, 2 weeks.
8. 'Sleepless in Seattle,' $3.7 million, 1,408, $96.5 million, 7 weeks.
9. 'Meteor Man,' $2.6 million, 1,060, 1 week.
10. 'Poetic Justice,' $2.1 million, 1,170, $25.1 million, 3 weeks.