‘Ground’ slips, Monday slows

The terra turned out be less firma than anticipated as Warner Bros. downsized its “On Deadly Ground” to $ 12,679,573 from a Monday estimate of $ 13.6 million. Virtually every studio anticipated a more vibrant holiday Monday than was actually writ at the box office.

“I can’t figure it out,” said one studio marketing chief. “Maybe it’s the Olympics. All I know is that Friday, Saturday and Sunday business was terrific and the bottom fell out on Monday.”

Nonetheless, three out of four days ain’t bad. The Presidents Day holiday weekend provided added momentum to the overall box office, with new entries off toa strong start and films in continuing runs holding well in the marketplace. The frame generated more than $ 80 million, or roughly 8% more than the comparable period of 1993.

“On Deadly Ground,” the latest actioner from Steven Seagal, entered the mainstream with a $ 6,308 average. While that’s a decent figure for this type of genre outing, it represented a downward turn from past Seagal starrers on a per-capita basis.

A similar fate might also befall Paramount’s “Blue Chips,” which debuted in third with $ 10,123,605 and a $ 5,113 average. Ron Shelton’s basketball drama ranked second overall its opening day. Subsequently, it slipped to third place behind Warner Bros.’ surprise comedy hit “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.”

What unites the top three films are two salient factors: Their prime appeal is to young males and all were largely dismissed by the critics.The latter factor hasn’t had much of an effect on “Ace,” which surprisingly is quickly headed toward a $ 60 million gross and has greatly increased actor Jim Carrey’s stock.

In addition to the commercial jitters surrounding the first two new outings, there’s palpable sweating for Universal’s “Reality Bites.” The first significant serio-comedy of Generation X also opened well in fifth, with $ 6,003,525 and a $ 5,225 average. It’s the kind of opening figure that falls below hit status but well above the throw-in-the-towel level.

Fortunately, next weekend is light on new releases, which will afford this weekend’s freshmen some much-needed nurturing and breathing space.

Warner Bros.’ well-orchestrated strategic relaunch of “The Fugitive” has been pretty much a fizzle. Thus, there was mild interest in how Buena Vista would fare with its impromptu reprise of the surprise Oscar contender “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”

However, industry trackers have been largely stymied in efforts to get any information on the pic’s performance in three dozen new situations. The mice have been hoarding this data and, as one keen observer noted, “It’s probably not because they hit the motherlode and want to keep all the gold to themselves.”

On the indie front, Alliance launched the sequel to “Three Colors: Blue, “”White”– or “Blanc” as they say in Quebec — on four French-lingo screens to a good preem of $ 24,152. In general, upscale titles have given the next month a wide berth because such disparate major releases as “Schindler’s List, “”Philadelphia” and “The Piano” will be capitalizing on their Oscar spotlight.

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