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It’s ‘Truman’ in a Landslide

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Given its first weekend, Jim Carrey’s “The Truman Show” could almost be subtitled “The Bucks Stop Here,” a variation on the credo of another famous Truman. Bolstered by some of the best notices for a studio film in recent memory (and certainly for Carrey), Paramount’s “The Truman Show” brought in an estimated $31.6 million over the weekend in 2,315 theaters--and that’s a lot of bucks.

Two films--Carrey’s first foray into more serious fare and Michael Douglas’ stylish thriller, “A Perfect Murder"--combined to lift box office for the first weekend in June to about 30% more than the same weekend last year.

The take for “Truman” compares favorably to Carrey’s antic “Liar Liar,” which debuted in spring of 1997 at $31.4 million. Only two Carrey films have opened better--"Ace Ventura 2" ($37.8 million) and “Batman Forever” (almost $53 million)--and both of those were sequels. On a per-screen-average basis, “Truman’s” $13,650 per theater was beat only by the “Batman” sequel.

“The audience is quite broad for this film,” Rob Friedman, Paramount’s marketing chief, said of “Truman.” “Our big task was to get in Carrey’s nonbelievers.” And from initial exit polls, they succeeded. The glowing reviews helped attract more females (52% of the audience) and more adults (also 52%) than traditionally attend the star’s comedies. Exit polls are said to be very favorable, according to Friedman.

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“The Truman Show” might have done even better with the adult audience but for “A Perfect Murder.” The loose remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder,” Warner Bros.’ “Perfect,” which also starred Gwyneth Paltrow, did not wow reviewers but, thanks to a sleek, moody marketing campaign, it seduced older ticket buyers looking for an old-fashioned thriller dressed in contemporary clothes.

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In 2,845 theaters, “Perfect” did perfectly well with a projected $16.3 million ($5,740 a theater)--almost doubling its business from Friday to Saturday after taking an initial hit from “Truman” on Friday night.

“Truman” and “Perfect” will both face direct competition next weekend from Disney’s heavily advertised adventure romance, “Six Days, Seven Nights,” starring Harrison Ford and Anne Heche.

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As for the once ferocious “Godzilla,” it’s a lot tamer now, having fallen 45% from its second to third weekend, down to an estimated $10 million. Still, it has about $114 million in the bank so far.

Holding much stronger is Paramount’s “Deep Impact” with a fifth-weekend total estimated at $6.7 million in 3,280 venues and $122 million to date.

For a little romance, audiences are still turning to Fox’s “Hope Floats,” starring Sandra Bullock. “Hope,” despite a serious 40% decline, still managed $8.5 million over the weekend, bringing it to $28.6 million in two weeks--thanks largely to good midweek business. The other big romantic film, Robert Redford’s “The Horse Whisperer,” from Disney, also refused to be thrown by the stiff competition, bringing in an additional $5.2 million over the weekend in 2,362 theaters and almost $52 million to date.

Rounding out the Top 10 were “Bulworth” sinking fast with $2.2 million on 1,794 screens and only $22 million to date; the ever-present “Titanic,” on 1,219 screens still chugging along with $1.6 million (down only 9% from last weekend as it continues to redefine the word “phenomenon”) and $582 million so far; “I Got the Hook Up,” which lost most of its core audience, dropping to $1.6 million ($7.1 million in two weeks); and, finally, in 10th place Warners’ animated misfire “The Quest for Camelot” at just below $1.4 million (about $19 million to date).

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