Hindsight: April 1990

By Daron Aldridge

March 24, 2009

Say no more. I've heard the rumors.

A calendar configuration put the first day of April on a Sunday, so technically this Hindsight will cover about 93% of the weekend days of April 1990. When we last left Hindsight, admittedly too long ago, the sensation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' first foray into theaters closed out the final days of March with stellar numbers.

It wasn't for a lack of trying by the studios to keep the March momentum rolling as the first full weekend of April 1990 saw four new films open on more than 1,000 screens. Unfortunately, none of them could wrest the top two spots away from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Pretty Woman. TMNT hauled away another $18.8 million ($32 million adjusted to 2008 ticket prices), which was off 26% from its debut the week before, and Pretty Woman took home $11.3 million ($19.2 mil adjusted) off a scant 10%.

The best ranking of the new bunch was the third masterpiece in the Ernest P. Worrel opus, Ernest Goes to Jail. Jim Varney's cash cow for Disney brought home $6.1 million ($10.4 million adjusted), which landed it in third place. Considering that its predecessors (Ernest Goes to Camp and Ernest Saves Santa) carried budget of between $3 to 6 million, Ernest's time in the big house likely paid for itself after only three days. This is pretty amazing considering that the character stemmed from being a television commercial shill. He was the face of Braum's restaurants in my youth. That would be the same thing as ABC's foolish creation of an entire series around the Geico Cavemen but with positive revenue. Come to think of it, maybe Ernest was their template as Disney was involved with both endeavors. In the end, Ernest Goes to Jail performed as expected with a final take of $25.2 million ($42.9 million adjusted), which closely resembled the final box office of $23.5 million for Ernest Goes to Camp and $28.2 million for Ernest Saves Santa. Apparently, not only did both Jim Varney and Tyler Perry "go to jail" in a movie and often dress in drag for a role, they were both consistent box office draws, albeit it likely came from very different audiences.


Fourth place was claimed by The First Power, a film that tested Lou Diamond Phillips' box office pull outside of brat pack westerns and a Ritchie Valens biopic. The supernatural thriller saw Phillips' character battle and try to vanquish an unstoppable evil. So, art imitated life as Phillips battled the evil that is Ernest. Alas, The First Power came up almost $500,000 short of topping Varney and earned $5.7 million ($9.7 million adjusted). Despite being bridesmaid to Ernest Goes to Jail throughout its theatrical run, The First Power was a moneymaker for MGM as it more than doubled its $10 million budget with a final tally of $22.4 million ($38.1 million adjusted).

The number five spot for the weekend was held onto by that other colossal March release, The Hunt for Red October. Despite being down 23% from the week before, the Clancy film earned $5 million ($8.5 million adjusted) and kept the other new releases at bay from cracking the top five.

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