‘Liar Liar’ Sets Box-Office Record (Honest! Honest!)


Jim Carrey’s baaaccckkk!! His “Liar Liar” for Universal scored the biggest March opening in movie history with an estimated $32 million. No lie.

It also proved a strong weekend to release “Selena,” a film about the slain tejano singer starring Jennifer Lopez and Edward James Olmos that appears to have gained some crossover appeal at the box office with an estimated $11-million weekend take. Most competitors credited Warner Bros. broad marketing scheme for the success.

But “Liar Liar” was clearly the weekend’s big news for Universal, with Carrey’s hit drawing audiences away from rival comedic stars Tim Allen (“Jungle 2 Jungle”) and shock jock Howard Stern (“Private Parts”). Stern’s film in particular was impacted, falling off 47% to finish in fifth place for the weekend with only $4.6 million in its third week. “Jungle to Jungle” slid to fourth, off 43% with $6.2 million.


“Liar Liar” was the studio’s second-largest three-day opener ever, behind “Jurassic Park.” The Carrey film was released at 2,845 locations, the most ever for a Universal film.

The components of “Liar Liar” are starting to shape up as a winning formula for Universal. Consider that the producer of the film is Imagine Entertainment’s Brian Grazer and the director is Tom Shadyac--who both worked magic with the 1996 Universal summer hit Eddie Murphy’s “The Nutty Professor.” Shadyac also directed Carrey in 1994’s “Ace Ventura, Pet Detective”--the film that made Carrey a star.

“Liar Liar” may do for Carrey what “Nutty Professor” did for Murphy. Both films have rejuvenated their box-office draw. Both stars had each suffered box-office disappointments before their latest releases. For Murphy, it was a string of under-performers. For Carrey, it was the highly publicized and criticized flop “The Cable Guy,” after two major hits, “The Mask” and “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.”

“Liar Liar” was Imagine’s second-biggest opener of all time as well. In fact, the company has been on a winning streak for the past 20 months with four films that combined to have opening weekends totaling $125 million.

Consider: The Disney release “Ransom” opened on Veterans Day weekend in 1996 at $35 million (Imagine’s biggest opener ever) and eventually grossed $300 million; “Nutty Professor” opened the week before “Independence Day” debuted to $25 million and it grossed $260 million; and the Oscar contender “Apollo 13”--which started the streak--opened July 4, 1995, to $25 million and grossed $350 million. The grand tally for box office on the three films is $910 million.

If “Liar Liar” sustains the streak, Imagine eventually could boast over $1 billion in box-office revenues in the past 20 months.


But weekend bragging rights don’t rest solely with Universal, Imagine, Carrey and Shadyac.

Warner Bros. and Lopez, who played the title role in “Selena,” were strutting in second place with an opener that surprised not only Warners, but competitors who speculated it would have at most an $8 million opening. “Selena” is based on the true life story of the Latina singing sensation who was slain by the woman who was the president of her fan club.

“We were hoping to do $8 [million] to $9 million with this, so $11 million was quite a surprise,” said Dan Fellman, of Warners’ distribution. The film’s strongest results were in Texas (Selena’s home state), Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and New York.

A film that is still drawing in crowds is “Return of the Jedi: Special Edition,” which fell to third for the weekend with $7.5 million. During its two-week run, “Jedi” has accumulated about $27.9 million. That amount combined with box-office results from the original is $291 million.

While “Star Wars: Special Edition” (the year’s biggest opener)--finally fell off the top 10 list to number 13, it grossed about $1 million, bringing its eight-week run to $136 million. Combined with results from the original release, the tally stands at $458 million.

But “The Empire Strikes Back: Special Edition” is still on the top 10 list at No. 9, grossing $2.5 million for a five-week run of $63.4 million. Combined with results from its original release, the total is about $286.1 million.

As for other weekend results: “Donnie Brasco” was in sixth at $3.5 million; “Sling Blade” was in seventh at $3 million; “love jones” was in eighth at $2.6 million; and Oscar contenders “The English Patient” and “Jerry Maguire” were tied for 10th at $1.9 million.


Final results will be released today.