Weather storms B.O.; ‘Ace’ detects success

Hearts may have been trump Valentine’s Day, but it was a very different suit that won the weekend at the box office. Warner Bros.’ “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” enjoyed its second week in first with $ 9,673,717 for the frame. The goofball comedy defied dire predictions by trackers, slipping just 20% for a three-day average of $ 5,075 and $ 24.6 million in 10 days.

“Ace’s” pace was pretty much on the money per weekend estimates. Studio sources were largely low-balling figures based upon the inclement weather on the East Coast. Even so, almost every major national release came in lower than anticipated. The most noticeable exception was Columbia’s “My Girl 2,” which debuted in fourth, per the studio.

A trio of freshmen held down the second through fourth positions in the marketplace. Universal’s “The Getaway” was strong considering the snowbound audience. It preemed in second with $ 5,806,515 and a $ 3,500 average. Considering that it’s the only action film in general release, features big stars and romance and got good reviews, the remake waslikely the big title most adversely affected by the elements.

Disney’s “Blank Check” and Columbia’s “My Girl 2” followed in popularity, with both films aiming for roughly the same demographic. They tallied $ 5,411, 897 and $ 5,012,295, respectively. “Check” also had a marginally better average, with $ 3,187 vs. the sequel’s $ 2,723.

Distribs were attempting to put the best face on the situation Monday. Most expected strong holds for the weekend frosh during the upcoming four-day Presidents Day holiday.

But the most obvious problem for returning films will be a trio of fresh releases: Warner Bros.’ “On Deadly Ground,” starring Steven Seagal, is already building steam; Generation X will get its shot in Universal’s “Reality Bites”; and Nick Nolte toplines Paramount’s basketball diary “Blue Chips.”

Then there’s that imponderable that lingers around like some box office Beijing flu: the weather. With at least five more weeks of official winter still ahead, more storms are possible — if unthinkable to beleaguered exhibitors in the East.

Last weekend’s big chill hurt more than just the newcomers. It was the week Oscar nominations were announced, and several titles were primed to take commercial advantage from their honors. Certainly all five best picture contenders saw a benefit and posted increased revenues.

But the boon was blunted by the storm in the East, with increased box office coming predominantly from the heartland.