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Bond Brings Bags of Cash In From the Cold : Box Office: After a six-year screen absence, 007 knocks ‘Ace’ down to second place as ‘GoldenEye’ totals $28.1 million in its first three days. ‘The American President’ grosses a strong $10.3 million.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Special agent Pierce Brosnan swamped pet detective Jim Carrey and President Michael Douglas in the weekend box-office runoff.

Preliminary estimates Sunday on the debut of the 17th Bond adventure, “GoldenEye,” with Brosnan taking over 007’s official duties, show why studios cling so tenaciously to their franchises. The original action hero roared back to life after a six-year screen absence with an explosive $28.1 million in its first three days on 2,667 screens (about $10,500 a screen), by far the biggest opening ever for a Bond film and in the history of MGM/UA.

Although competing studios were guessing that “GoldenEye” would come in somewhat lower in the final tally than MGM/UA’s figures, the film handily knocked “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” into second place. After last weekend’s over-estimated opening, “Ace” predictably plummeted almost 50% to an estimated $20.6 million (which Warner Bros.’ competitors said was also a bit high) on 2,652 screens. That’s still a major haul of about $65 million in just 10 days, with the mammoth Thanksgiving weekend still ahead.

Castle Rock/Columbia’s “The American President,” pulled down some favorable reviews and seemed to reach its target audience in its first outing. Premiering on 1,508 screens, the Michael Douglas/Annette Bening romance grossed $10.3 million for $6,830 a screen. The weekend’s other arrival, “It Takes Two,” starring Kirstie Alley and the Olsen twins, got off to a respectable fourth-place start, estimated at $5.7 million on 1,581 screens, about $3,600 a theater.

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Even with “GoldenEye” and “American President” making potent respective showings, the pre-Thanksgiving weekend was about 5% to 10% behind last year when such films as “Star Trek: Generations,” “Interview With the Vampire” and “The Santa Clause” dominated, according to John Krier of Exhibitor Relations, which tracks box-office trends.

But for MGM/UA, the picture is rosy. In addition to posting the third-best opening weekend this year, “GoldenEye” far out-grossed the previous Bond top opener, “A View to a Kill,” which debuted at $13.3 million over the four-day Memorial Day weekend in 1985. The most recent Bond film, “License to Kill” in 1989, took in only $8.8 million its first weekend out.

“GoldenEye” also surpassed the $20-million “Rocky IV” opening, the company’s previous best. The PG-13-rated Bond attracted “everybody from 10 years old and up,” said Terry Curtin, MGM/UA senior vice president of publicity.

MGM/UA also had the fifth-place entry, “Get Shorty,” which took its first serious drop (40%) to $4.5 million on 2,103 screens but already has $57 million in the bank and some mileage left.

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The $10.3-million ($6,800 a screen) estimate for “American President” was not as smashing as the Bond take, “but we never figured this to be a one-weekend movie,” said Castle Rock principal Martin Shafer. “President” definitely reached its constituency--men and women over 25, with the emphasis on the latter. Though older audiences, particularly females, don’t necessarily rush out to see movies as quickly as, say, young males, “President” leaped an impressive 50% from Friday to Saturday. That indicates potent date-night potential. And, according to Shafer, exit polls were “extraordinary,” which could portend an extended run for the film through to Christmas.

The coming five-day holiday weekend should be a heated contest. “GoldenEye” and “Ace” will compete head to head with “Money Train” starring Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson and “Nick of Time” starring Johnny Depp. Disney’s animated “Toy Story” has little competition for the kids, while Martin Scorsese’s “Casino” is “President’s” only serious alternative and should play stronger to males than females.

The weekend’s sixth-place movie was “Copycat,” which drooped to $3 million and $24 million so far. “Poison” is estimated at $2.3 million for seventh place, and almost $25 million to date. “Home for the Holidays” slipped to eighth place with only $2 million on 1,000 screens and a wan $11.3 million in three weeks. Rounding out the Top 10 were “Seven,” in ninth with $1.6 million on 1,453 screens and $84.2 million so far, and “Now and Then,” adding $1.5 million for the weekend on 1,662 screens and about $24 million to date.


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