‘Ace’ an animal at B.O.

Warner Bros. had an ace up its sleeve this past weekend as the distributor’s “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective” grabbed the No. 1 box office spot with an estimated take of $ 12.5 million in its first outing.

Among other newcomers, “My Father the Hero” was a sturdy fourth with $ 5.6 million, while “I’ll Do Anything” grossed an estimated $ 4.5 million for a off-key per-screen average of $ 3,577. “Gunmen” and “Romeo Is Bleeding” finished off the radar.

“Ace Ventura,” starring Jim Carrey, debuted at 1,250 doghouses and far outdistanced the rest of the pack, almost doubling the estimated take of the No. 2 film, Fox’s “Mrs. Doubtfire.” The Robin Williams starrer pulled in $ 6.8 million.

“Doubtfire,” which slipped only about 13% from its previous outing, has raised its total box office take to more than $ 181 million, overtaking “The Fugitive” as the second highest grossing film to be released in 1993.

Industry tracking was expecting an increase from the previous weekend, which saw a fall in grosses on Sunday because of the Super Bowl. At the same time, estimates put the previous weekend roughly 25% higher than the same weekend a year ago.

Although “Ace Ventura” had a terrific opening, two other freshman films did not fare quite so well. Gramercy’s “Romeo Is Bleeding” looks as though it’s going to need a transfusion, as the noir thriller took in only an estimated $ 1. 2 million at 246 screens. “Gunmen,” the Mario Van Peebles starrer, ran out of ammo, pulling in just $ 2 million on 802 screens.

However, another debuting film, Touchstone’s “My Father, the Hero,” had an impressive opening — with an estimated $ 5.6 million take at 1,193 screens — good enough for fourth place on the weekend list.

In third place was “Philadel-phia,” TriStar’s AIDS drama, which pulled in an estimated $ 6 million. The Tom Hanks starrer was down only 17% and has raised its total take to $ 45 million.

Results for fifth place are a little more murky, as the position is packed with three possible entries — Universal’s “Schindler’s List,” Warner Bros.’ “Grumpy Old Men” and Columbia’s freshman entry “I’ll Do Anything.”

“Schindler’s” took in an estimated $ 4.6 million on 764 screens, raising its total take to $ 29 million, while “Grumpy Old Men,” the Walter Matthau-Jack Lemmon comedy, was down just 9%, earning about $ 4.5 million on 1,722 screens.

“I’ll Do Anything,” James L. Brooks’ showbiz comedy starring Nick Nolte, is expected to pull in a three-day total of $ 4.5 million on 1,205 screens.

The film had a budget of $ 45 million and was originally planned as a musical. However, Brooks dropped the music and reshot part of the film after poor test screenings.

Down 7%

In eighth place was New Line’s “Blink,” which pulled in an estimated $ 4.1 million on 1,540 screens, down just 7% from the previous weekend.

Paramount’s “Intersection” continued its rapid plunge, falling another 35% to $ 2.6 million on 1,300 screens. The estimated total to date for the Richard Gere-Sharon Stone starrer is a lukewarm $ 17.4 million.

Rounding out the top 10 is Warner Bros.’ “The Pelican Brief,” which subpoenaed $ 2.4 million at 1,695 courthouses, dropping 14%.

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