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‘Sugar,’ ‘8’ sturdy, but ‘Ace’ high

Warner Bros.’ “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” played the trump card and wound up at the top of the weekend box office again with $ 6,512,350. The pooch private eye had a modest slip of 26% and an average outing of $ 3,318.

“Ace’s” strong hold allowed it to better WB’s second weekend gross of the Steven Seagal actioner “On Deadly Ground” by about $ 150,000. However, other trade and mainstream publications had the order reversed Monday, causing Burbank execs to scratch their heads.

“I can’t figure it out,” confessed Warner Bros.’ distribution chief Barry Reardon. “We were projecting ‘Ace’ ahead by about $ 300,000 on Sunday. I just don’t have any idea how someone could look at the numbers and come up with this. We certainly didn’t tell anyone that ‘On Deadly Ground’ was first.”

Despite only OK to good response to the two new national releases, the overall marketplace was looking very healthy. Grosses swelled on Saturday and Sunday — which has been soft for the past month — actually producing results more like the normal weekend curve.

Fox launched “Sugar Hill,” which was third with a gross of $ 5,712,485 and a $ 6,760 average. In industry parlance, the studio “opened” the picture; what’s less certain is its stamina. The picture had one of those weekend arcs that makes everyone involved nervous, with its real strength on opening day and subsequent daily box office ups and downs.

New Line’s “8 Seconds,” which debuted on a comparable number of screens as “Sugar,” was seventh with $ 3,369,037 and a $ 4,030 average. Its weekend was not unlike the other preem in indicating opening strength and a likely quick decline. Obviously, the big difference was the numbers the picture attracted.

The other interesting contrast of the debs was that although both registered strongest with young males, “Sugar” played very urban and “Seconds” was a heartland pic.

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