Warner Bros.’ box office weapon Steven Seagal directed himself to the top of the Presidents’ Day weekend with an estimated $ 13.6 million with “On Deadly Ground.” (See review, page 4.)

While Paramount’s basketball pic “Blue Chips” opened strong, it quickly lost ground to “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” and wound up in third position with $ 10. 2 million. Universal’s “Reality Bites,” the third freshman, ranked fourth with a reported $ 6.5 million. Official figures for the holiday weekend will be published Wednesday.

Despite the allure of the Olympic Games on television, the four-day holiday weekend B.O. looked vibrant and should contribute mightily to a $ 100 million-plus weekly gross. New titles in the marketplace launched well and continuing runs were solid for the most part. The sesh showed a 15% hike in business from a year earlier and a 50% rise from the immediate prior weekend.

At the head of the pack was “On Deadly Ground,” Seagal’s Alaska-set eco thriller, weighing in with $ 13.6 million. Preemed with 2,010 playdates, the actioner had an effective $ 6,770 average. However, that was considerably below the opening strength of his last pic, “Under Siege,” or earlier efforts such as “Hard to Kill” and “Out for Justice.”

Warner Bros. also took the second slot with the redoubtable “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” impounded for $ 11.1 million. Down just 6%, the well-heeled comedy antics had a $ 5,770 average from 1,923 menageries. (Comparisons are three-day to three-day; grosses and averages are for four days.) That puts its cume at $ 38.5 million.

Paramount’s “Blue Chips” dunked $ 10.2 million to land third position. Ron Shelton’s hoop drama was second in the league Friday but lost terrain on subsequent days, with Sunday biz below opening day. It still accounted for a significant $ 5,150 from 1,980 courts.

Universal’s “Reality Bites” sank its teeth into $ 6.5 million to finish fourth. The Generation X saga appeared to hit the target with its core audience, ringing up a $ 5,650 average from 1,150 dates.

‘Check’ fills fifth

Disney saw its “Blank Check” endorsed to the sum of $ 6 million, giving it fifth position. The junior hijinks slipped a slim 8% for the frame, making an average deposit of $ 3,460 in 1,732 vaults, bringing the total investment to $ 12.6 million.

Universal’s Oscar contender “Schindler’s List” added about $ 5 million to its roster to rank sixth for the holiday weekend. In 798 locations, it ebbed 15% for a $ 6,270 average. That pushes its cume to $ 42.2 million.

‘Father’ falls

Other best picture Oscar nominees had varied returns. U’s “In the Name of the Father” fell a mere 5% to $ 2.6 million and 12th for the weekend. With a weekend average of $ 4,740, its cume grew to $ 12.5 million.

Also holding strong was Miramax’s “The Piano,” off 8% with $ 1.6 million and 14th spot. Its cume is a shade below $ 30 million.

Columbia’s “The Remains of the Day” fell about 32% to $ 360,000 and a cume of $ 20.6 million. Warner Bros.’ “The Fugitive,” after a 1,010-playdate Oscar launch, cut back 80% and should wind up the weekend with roughly $ 150,000.

Though not much of an Oscar hopeful, Fox’s “Mrs. Doubtfire” swept up $ 4.9 million to rank seventh. The tidy comedy continued to clean house with a $ 2,590 average from 1,387 abodes. Off 12% for the frame, it has a $ 193.7 million cume and should hit $ 200 million in about 10 days.

The second weekend of Columbia’s “My Girl 2″ rated eighth with $ 4.8 million. A significant 24% erosion put its average at $ 2,590 from 1,853 outings. Its 11 -day cume is $ 10.8 million.

More precipitous was the 41% hit experienced by Universal’s “The Getaway,” which fell to 11th place with a $ 4 million take. Its 1,660 excursions bankrolled a $ 2,410 average for an $ 11.4 million cume.

TriStar’s “Philadelphia” placed ninth with $ 4.3 million. The controversial drama was down 15% for a $ 2,970 average from 1,449 clinics. It has a to-date gross of $ 56.1 million.

Closing up the top 10 was Touchstone’s “My Father, the Hero” with $ 4.1 million. The Gallic retread ebbed 13% for a sunny average of $ 3,010 from 1,363 resorts. Its cume is $ 15.9 million.

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