‘Ace’ is the place at B.O.

Jim Carrey — Hollywood’s new $ 7 Million Man — was back on top of the weekend box office as Warner Bros.’ “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” grossed $ 6.2 million for the frame.

Fox’s “Sugar Hill” surprised the pundits with a strong $ 5.8 million debut to rank third, while New Line’s “8 Seconds” had an OK launch with $ 3.3 million in seventh place. Both freshmen, however, appeared to have modest commercial stamina.

Despite the lure of the red-hot Winter Olympics, the marketplace appeared to be about even from one year ago. Compared with the first three days of the prior weekend, biz was down 25%. No one’s disputing the obvious allure of the international sporting event and its effect on other national pastimes.

Of course, that’s not to imply that sport and celluloid are an unbeatable twosome, especially judging by the 55% decline experienced by Paramount’s “Blue Chips.” The inside-basketball drama grossed $ 4 million to clinch the fourth spot, out of the medals. Hooping it up with 1,980 prints, it posted a $ 2,020 average and a 10-day cume of $ 15.4 million.

Disney’s “Blank Check” continued to bounce for a resilient $ 3.8 million in fifth place. The tyke cash comedy slipped a modest 24% to ring up a $ 2,200 average from 1,727 vaults. It has a cume of $ 17.7 million.

Warner Bros.’ “Ace” just keeps on going, sending star Carrey’s talent fee to the stratosphere — he’s tabbed to get $ 7 million for his next film, “Dumb and Dumber.” (See story, page 1.)

The offbeat comedy racked up $ 6.2 million, just 20% down from the first three days of the Presidents Day holiday weekend. Its 1,963 kennels fetched a $ 3,160 average to send the current cume to $ 45.5 million and push early projections of a $ 60 million gross upward.

Warner Bros. also locked in the second slot, with Steven Seagal’s actioner “On Deadly Ground” accounting for $ 5.9 million. That was a sizable 47% drop from its opening weekend and a trembling average of $ 2,940. Its 2,010 eco-correct sites have churned out $ 20.8 million in 10 days.

Fox was just behind in third with $ 5.8 million for its new entry, “Sugar Hill.” The violent urban crime meller was first in the marketplace its opening day but trailed off quickly. Nonetheless, its $ 6,860 weekend average from 845 playdates has to be considered better than just a genre launch.

“We did the responsible thing and that turned out to be the right thing,” noted Fox senior veep Tom Sherak. “The film has violence but it also deals with families and heritage and I think we conveyed those elements.” Industry consensus concurred with Sherak that the film had been effectively marketed, generating a very decent opening gross.

The jury was not so kind to New Line’s “8 Seconds,” which ranked seventh with $ 3.3 million. The true-life rodeo saga was being sold on actor Luke Perry’s TV star power and as a kind of “Rocky” on the range. Neither element produced runaway success, though its $ 3,950 average from 836 corrals was appreciated in light of the hard-sell quality of the subject matter.

Respectively “Sugar Hill” and “8 Seconds” had sluggish 37% and 36% box office boosts from Friday to Saturday. Meanwhile, continuing titles in the marketplace mostly increased their gate by 50%, prompting one studio exec to sigh, “Thank God the Olympics are over.”

‘Reality’ sinks in

Universal’s “Reality Bites” moved into sixth with $ 3.5 million and the best hold among last week’s freshmen. The Generation X serio-comedy dipped 32% for a $ 2,980 average from 1,175 dorms.

Universal’s Oscar fave “Schindler’s List” landed in eighth with $ 2.8 million. The Holocaust drama retained a potent $ 3,480 average from 804 locales as its weekend slid some 31%. Its cume is $ 45.7 million.

Another Universal best pic nominee, “In the Name of the Father,” was the only other title in the category reaping significant rewards from the statuette’s glow. It had a $ 1.7 million weekend, off 20%, to rank 13th.

Switching categories, best foreign-lingo contender “Belle Epoque” from Spain via Sony Pictures Classics debuted on two Manhattan screens for a weekend estimate of $ 36,000. It led the field among a clutch of mostly buoyant exclusive launches.

A nose behind with $ 35,000 on two screens was MGM’s reissue of the 1969 vintage “Midnight Cowboy.” Studio response was so upbeat, the word’s gone out to strike up more prints of the refurbished Oscar winner.

Gramercy’s Cesar-winning (France’s Oscar) pickup “Savage Nights” also had a healthy launch on two with $ 30,000. The AIDS-themed tale will be expanding cautiously.

Trimark’s iconoclastic Western “Silent Tongue,” helmed by Sam Shepard, was comparatively soft in its two outings, with a preem weekend of $ 18,000. River Phoenix’s last film appears unpromising at the box office.

Fox’s “Mrs. Doubtfire” continued its strong run in ninth with $ 2.8 million. The comedy’s not dragging, whisking up a $ 2,090 average from 1,342. Off 28% this session, it’s approaching the double-century mark with a current cume of $ 196.9 million.

Touchstone’s “My Father, the Hero” was 28% less valiant in 10th spot with $ 2 .4 million. The Gallic revamp comedy romped to an $ 1,800 average at 1,335 resorts, for a cume of $ 19 million.

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