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Movie tribute to slain Tejano singer draws somber fans

March 24, 1997

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Somber fans of slain Tejano singer Selena mixed with the merely curious at debut showings of a movie that celebrates her short life.

``Selena,″ playing with Spanish subtitles on some screens, earned an estimated $11 million this weekend to place second behind the Jim Carrey comedy ``Liar, Liar,″ according to industry estimates Sunday.

Many young women who packed movie theaters for ``Selena″ had the look of their heroine: long, dark hair and burgundy-lined lips.

``Before everything happened, I was a fan,″ said 22-year-old Arely Canales, who moved to Los Angeles from El Salvador three years ago. ``Her hair, her music, her personality _ everything about her, I love.″

Jennifer Lopez portrays Grammy-winning Selena Quintanilla Perez, who was 23 when she was gunned down March 31, 1995, in a Corpus Christi, Texas, hotel room by the former head of her fan club.

Yolanda Saldivar, 36, also managed Selena’s clothing business. Prosecutors said she shot Selena after the singer confronted her about embezzling money. Saldivar claimed the shooting was an accident. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Theater managers in New York reported that Latinos turned out in force for the first weekend of ``Selena.″

``We’ve had an excellent turnout, and the audience is 99 percent Hispanic,″ said Al Liburd, manager of Sony State Theater in Times Square.

Even in the posh seaside town of Easthampton, 80 percent of the audience was still Latino.

``She’s had a broader impact on that community,″ said Nichole Guldi, a ticket seller at United Artists Easthampton Cinema.

In Tempe, Ariz., a stream of mostly Hispanic fans said they came to learn more about the star who died too young.

``She’s an angel,″ said 40-year-old Estella Ramirez, who cried when she first heard Selena was killed. ``She’s never going to be here, but with this movie we have something of her.″

Bridget Gallegos, 15, brought her mother to see ``Selena″ at the movie’s Albuquerque, N.M., opening on Sunday.

Selena was someone she admired, Bridget admitted shyly.

``I like the way she sings, and she’s so pretty,″ she said.

In North Hollywood, Lee Perry, 45, and Linda Lasater, 56, said they wanted to learn more about the singer and Latin music. They said they applauded the movie for bringing Hispanic culture into the mostly white world of Hollywood.

``It’s going to be a nice change,″ Ms. Perry said.