'Ace' Cashes In With $40.3-Million Opening : Movies: It's five box office smashes in a row for Jim Carrey as his new comedy is reported to be attracting a diverse audience.


After a false start last weekend, the holiday movie season took off with the arrival of "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls." Warner Bros.' weekend estimate for Jim Carrey's comedic sequel was $40.3 million in 2,652 theaters, though the actual number of screens showing the film is reportedly well over 3,000.

If the "Ace" figure holds up when the official tallies come out today, it will easily beat the $36.4 million reported by "Interview With the Vampire" this same weekend last year, according to John Krier of Exhibitor Relations, and would be Carrey's fifth smash in a row, starting with the original "Ace Ventura" in the spring of 1994. (The other three are "The Mask," "Dumb and Dumber" and "Batman Forever," all of which topped $100 million.)

The first "Ace" grossed $72.2 million, so the second should easily surpass it. The film's director, Steve Oedekerk, checked out weekend screenings along with Carrey and said he was surprised at "how diverse the audience was." The core teen audience was heavily supplemented by older and younger attendees.

"Ace" may lose as much as half its opening weekend total to next weekend's arrivals, "Goldeneye," the new James Bond film, and the romance "The American President," which Columbia/Tri-Star sneaked on 1,102 screens Saturday night at a reported 85% capacity.

But Carrey's film should rebound for the huge Thanksgiving weekend, which, along with Memorial Day, is the biggest moviegoing holiday of the year.

"Ace" knocked "Get Shorty" to second place. But "Shorty" is one of the fall's undisputed hits, reporting $8 million for the weekend on 2,103 screens and $51 million in its first month. The season's other major hit, the serial-killer thriller "Seven," was in seventh this weekend with $2.7 million on 1,818 screens, elevating its total to $82.2 million.

Third place this weekend went to another serial thriller tale, "Copycat," which is a word-of-mouth winner. As with Holly Hunter's other film, "Home for the Holidays," marketing couldn't open the film, but audiences have kept both alive. The third weekend for "Copycat" was just behind the first weekend with $4.8 million on 1,661 screens and $19.2 million to date.

After a less than auspicious start, Hunter's "Holidays" inched up to fifth place, holding on to $3.4 million on 1,000 screens for $8.5 million in two weeks.

In fourth place was the surprise hit, the teen drama "Powder," which grossed $4.4 million on 1,621 screens for $21.7 million after three weekends. In sixth was another unexpected audience pleaser, New Line's "Now and Then," a hit with both young girls and older women. The fourth weekend was a fairly steady $3 million on 1,713 screens and $22.1 million so far.

"Now and Then" is faring better than two other movies with similar audience appeal, "How to Make an American Quilt" and 10th place "Gold Diggers," which slid to $1.5 million on 1,300 screens and a two-week take of $4.6 million.

In eighth place, dropping almost 50%, was model Cindy Crawford's screen debut "Fair Game," which took in $2.6 million on 1,949 screens for an unsatisfactory $8.5 million to date.

Right behind Crawford was Eddie Murphy, who continues his downward star tumble with "Vampire in Brooklyn," registering a paltry $2.3 million in its third weekend on 2,130 screens and just $16.7 million thus far.

Gramercy Pictures reported a first weekend of $107,433 for the British drama "Carrington," a strong per-screen average of $15,348 on seven U.S. screens.

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