Movie Article

Summing Up a Spirited Summer

1990's Summer movie roundup -- We look back at the season that included ''Ghost,'' ''Pump Up the Volume,'' and ''Arachnophobia''

Action doesn't necessarily speak louder than words — at least that seems to be the moral found amid all the wrecked cars, shattered glass, and spent bullets left behind by Hollywood's summer movie blowout. The season's heavy machinery — Bruce Willis' one-man antiterrorism force, Arnold Schwarzenegger's Red Planet liberator, Warren Beatty's vintage crime stopper — were all winners, but not one could muster the gusto to surpass a sweet spectral Patrick Swayze learning to say the words ''I love you'' in Ghost. The love story-thriller, which has already crossed the magic $100 million mark, materialized seemingly out of nowhere. With none of the advance hype that accompanied the other would-be blockbusters, the unassuming $25 million film charmed moviegoers with its unpredictable mix of comedy and thrills; it will wind up as the summer season's top grosser.

By contrast, Tom Cruise's Days of Thunder, the favorite before the summer sweepstakes began, ran out of gas pretty quickly. Its $80 million in ticket sales notwithstanding, the $55 million commercial for stock-car racing will have to be cycled through foreign markets, cable, and video before it turns up any profits.

The season started off with a bang. Until Ghost's appearance in mid-July, the nation's movie screees resembled a demolition derby as, each weekend, another megabudget action picture opened to big grosses and then hit the wall as the genre's addicts (mostly younger male moviegoers) traded in one movie for a newer one. ''It was almost like a Pacman summer,'' says Tom Sherak, Twentieth Century Fox's executive vice president. ''The new features ate up the ones that opened one or two weeks before.'' Ted Mundorff, of the Pacific Theatres chain, adds: ''It's obvious by Ghost's (success) there should have been more of a variety of films out there. They lost some of the adult audience that is now going to Ghost and Presumed Innocent.''

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