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MOVIES

Arts and entertainment reports from The Times, national and international news services and the nation's press

On Steady Ground: Steven Seagal’s “On Deadly Ground” held its ground in the No. 1 spot at the nation’s box office during a generally slow weekend. The action film from Warner Bros., which was also in first place for its premiere weekend a week earlier, took in $6.5 million, according to early industry estimates. Warner Bros.’ “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” starring Jim Carrey, was close behind with $6.4 million. Wesley Snipes’ new urban drama from 20th Century Fox, “Sugar Hill,” took third with $5.8 million. Paramount’s “Blue Chips” and Disney’s “Blank Check” were battling it out for fourth and fifth with $4 million each. A box-office note: “Midnight Cowboy” was still a big draw after 25 years. The anniversary re-release of the movie starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman did swift business over the weekend, despite competition from the Winter Olympics on CBS, taking in $35,000 in just two theaters, the Mann’s Bruin in Westwood and one in New York City.

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Voila, the Cesars: The French film world chose “Smoking/No Smoking,” a Franco-British comedy, as best film at its annual Cesar awards in Paris on Saturday. The French cinema academy also named the movie’s director, Alain Resnais, as best director and star Pierre Arditi as best actor. In the film written by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn, each actor plays six different roles. Juliette Binoche of France won best actress for her performance in “Blue,” from Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski. And best foreign film went to Jane Campion’s “The Piano.”

TELEVISION

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Ratings Roundup: Mired in third place in recent months, “The CBS Evening News,” boosted by its Winter Olympic coverage, tied ABC’s “World News Tonight” for the week of Feb. 21-25, according to figures released Saturday by the A. C. Nielsen Co. Both shows averaged an 11.7 rating. “NBC Nightly News” had an 8.2. “The CBS Evening News” has not been in first place since the week of Aug. 24, 1992. . . . CBS’ coverage of Wednesday’s Winter Olympics, which included Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding in the women’s figure skating technical program competition, now ranks as the fourth most-watched program of any sponsored program in U.S. television history. Updated figures revealed that more than 126 million people were tuned-in. That places it behind three Super Bowls--XXVIII, XXVII and XX. Original figures had placed it as the eighth most-watched program.

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New on ABC: “These Friends of Mine,” a half-hour comedy starring comedian Ellen DeGeneres, previews on ABC March 29 at 9:30 p.m. before moving the next night into its regular 9:30 p.m. Wednesday slot. Also on ABC, “Sister, Sister,” about a mixed-up family composed of reunited identical-twin girls and their single parents, previews at 8:30 p.m. April 1, followed by a second episode that same evening in the series’ regular 9:30 p.m. Friday time slot. The series replace “Grace Under Fire” and “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper,” which are set to return later in the season.

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NBC Says Sorry: Comedian Martin Lawrence yukked it up about the Bobbitts, oral sex and feminine hygiene. NBC didn’t even crack a smile. The network apologized for Lawrence’s raunchy humor on the Feb. 19 “Saturday Night Live” show, which prompted at least 177 viewer complaints. “We can announce that last week’s program will not be repeated on the NBC network even in an edited form,” NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer said in a fax sent to station affiliates. Lawrence’s jokes were not in his script. NBC edited the offending material from its tape-delayed West Coast broadcast.

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Herrrre’s Greg: Greg Kinnear takes over for Bob Costas tonight as host of “Later,” NBC’s late-night interview show. Kinnear’s first guest will be “Seinfeld” star Julia-Louis Dreyfus, to be followed by Martin Short on Tuesday and Phil Hartman on Wednesday. Meanwhile, in a strange twist of fate, NBC is hoping that Kinnear’s debut at 1:35 a.m. will get a special boost from its lead in, “Late Night With Conan O’Brien,” because the guest on that show tonight will be its former host--and now late-night champion on CBS--David Letterman.

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Staying Put: KABC-TV Channel 7 anchorman Paul Dandridge said he expects to accept management’s offer of a six-month extension of his current contract. The station had set a deadline of today for him either to agree to terms or be removed from the air. Dandridge has been at the station since 1982 and the 6 p.m. newscast he anchors is the market’s highest-rated.

POP/ROCK

The Heat Is on: MCA Records is suing singer Glenn Frey, the former Eagle, for allegedly flying the coop on a six-record contract. Frey has delivered only enough recordings for two albums, MCA said. The company accused him of planning to break his contract and record on his own and with other ex-Eagles. The lawsuit, filed Friday in Los Angeles, seeks $5 million.

QUICK TAKES

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The Olympic medalists start showing up on the talk-show circuit this week: speed-skater Bonnie Blair will be a guest tonight on NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” and speed-skater Dan Jansen appears on CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” on Tuesday. . . . Janet Jackson abruptly ended her Salt Lake City concert Saturday night after becoming ill in the middle of her song, “Throb.” She was taken to a hospital emergency room, treated for flu-like symptoms and dehydration and released two hours later.


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