By the Numbers: Dec. 14

With Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise and director Cameron Crowe introduced to the world a new–and destined to-become chronically overused–catchphrase in “show me the money.” Heck, screaming out those four words into the phone at Cruise probably secured co-star Cuba Gooding Jr. his Oscar.

Vanilla Sky, the second collaboration between Cruise and Crowe, also arrives with its own catchphrase. But don’t expect “open your eyes” to roll off too many tongues this holiday season. Or for Vanilla Sky to prove as accepted or as rewarding as Jerry Maguire. This expensive and vacuous reworking of the 1997 Spanish psychological mindbender Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) also will test Cruise‘s box office appeal, just as Eyes Wide Shut and Magnolia did in 1999.

Vanilla Sky should open with more than Jerry Maguire‘s $17 million–between $20 million and $25 million–but once word spreads this is an unsatisfactory and unconventional Cruise endeavor, it will fall well short of the $153.7 million that Jerry Maguire earned

Crowe‘s faithful but heavily Americanized remake chronicles a rich and charismatic magazine publisher’s efforts to get his life in order. A car crash left his face disfigured, killed his “f**k buddy” (Cameron Diaz) and destroyed his chance at true love with the perfect woman (Cruise‘s new squeeze Penelope Cruz, who played the same role in the original). But reality and fantasy start to blur as Cruise is arrested for murder.

The constant narrative shifts–which worked so well in Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes) but are strained under Crowe‘s languid direction–will certainly tax the patience of those willing to sit through the lengthy and longwinded Vanilla Sky. It doesn’t help that its protagonist is a spoiled, selfish, rich brat whose journey of self-discovery doesn’t lead to any worthy revelations about his life.

Crowe, coming off the critically acclaimed but commercially disappointing semi-autobiographical Almost Famous, attempts to infuse Vanilla Sky with his trademark pop culture sensibilities. He also litters the soundtrack with great songs from the past and present. Yet Vanilla Sky remains Crowe‘s coldest and most impersonal offering to date.

The unraveling of Cruise‘s marriage to Nicole Kidman should not hurt Vanilla Sky, but Cruz‘s presence is something of a hindrance. Besides mangling her lines when working in English, Cruz also represents something of a kiss of death at the box office. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, All the Pretty Horses and Woman on Top all flopped within the span of one year. The very public unveiling of the CruiseCruz love affair seemed strategically timed to the August release of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, but it not did inspire audiences to see the World War II romance.

Cruise is one of Hollywood’s few sure things, but even his attempts to reinvent himself fall by the wayside. Paul Thomas Anderson‘s ensemble drama Magnolia couldn’t capitalize on Cruise‘s Oscar-nominated performance as a brash motivational speaker, and stalled at $22.4 million. The long-in-the-works Eyes Wide Shut, the last film directed by Stanley Kubrick, failed to overcome negative reviews and crashed at $55.6 million.

Eyes Wide Shut also marked Cruise‘s third and final on-screen collaboration with Kidman (he produced Kidman‘s The Others, directed by Abre Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes)‘s Alejandro Amenabar). Their lack of chemistry resulted in equally unsatisfactory grosses for 1990’s Days of Thunder ($82.6 million) and Far and Away ($58.8 million). That Cruise and Cruz fail to generate much heat in Vanilla Sky could ensure that the film ends up doing no better than Days of Thunder at best and Eyes Wide Shut at worst.

Cruise, disfigured and masked for much of Vanilla Sky, also must do battle with another remake, Ocean’s Eleven, which could retain the No. 1 spot for a second weekend. In this swinging reworking of the old Rat Pack heist yarn heartthrobs George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon plot to steal from casino owner Andy Garcia. After setting a December opening record of $38.1 million, Ocean’s Eleven has $47.5 million stashed away itself through Wednesday. Solid word of mouth, and one of the best casts never assembled by Robert Altman, should give director Steven Soderbergh his third consecutive $100 million hit following last year’s Erin Brockovich and Traffic. Indeed, Ocean’s Eleven looks set to make more than $150 million.

Regardless, this weekend’s box champ will have only five days to savor its victory. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring should claim the No. 1 spot when it opens Dec. 19.

Cruise‘s Risky Business takes a ribbing in Not Another Teen Movie, a Scary Movie-style assault on the angst-ridden high school dramas churned out in assembly line fashion in the 1980s by John Hughes. Those too young to remember such Hughesian classics as The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink will instead take solace in the ridiculing of such recent teen pap as Varsity Blues and Bring It On.

The holiday season has in recent years been inexplicably generous to such knuckle-headed fare as Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and Dude, Where’s My Car?. Despite its no-name cast, Teen Movie should at least equal the $46.7 million that Dude drove away with last Christmas. Still, Teen Movie has little time to establish itself before facing direct competition next week in the form of the up-in-smoke rap-driven comedy, How High.

Riding off with the title of 2001’s top-grossing film seems all but a certainty for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. The family-oriented fantasy has $242.4 million through Wednesday, and should break $250 million in its fifth weekend. That puts Harry Potter within spitting distance of the $267.6 million amassed this summer by Shrek. The apprentice wizard, though, doesn’t have enough juice in his Nimbus 2000 broom to catch up with Star Wars: Episode One–The Phantom Menace. The Phantom Menace cracked $314 on its 30th day in release. Harry Potter will have to make do with $300 million as its grand total, especially as business is likely to drop off heavily with the arrival of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

Monsters, Inc. also wants to scare Shrek into submission. The Disney/Pixar adventure experienced a mere 28 percent drop in its sixth weekend, from $9.1 million to $6.5 million, no doubt due to the addition of faux outtakes. Monsters, Inc. has $213.4 million through Wednesday, versus Shrek‘s $21 million during the same period of play. Monsters, Inc. could surpass Shrek‘s total should it reap the box office rewards of a likely Oscar nomination for Best Animated Picture.

Behind Enemy Lines needs rescuing. After a healthy $18.7 million opening, the Bosnia-set war yarn plunged 57 percent in its second weekend to $8 million. Its total is $32.8 million through Wednesday. That’s well behind the similarly themed Spy Game, which has $55 million through Wednesday.

The arrival of Ocean’s Eleven hit both thrillers hard and fast, with Spy Game tumbling 59 percent in its third weekend, from $11 million to $4.4 million. Spy Game lost significant ground because it shares Ocean’s Eleven co-star Pitt. Audiences preferred a clean-cut Pitt robbing Las Vegas casinos to a bloody and grubby Pitt locked away in a Chinese prison.

The rest of the Top 10–with the exception of French arthouse sensation Amelie ($9 million through Wednesday)–should prepare for their last hurrahs this weekend. A total of six wide releases debut on Dec. 19 and Dec. 21, leaving no room for holdovers Shallow Hal (a hearty $65.3 million), Black Knight (a lowly $27.5 million), Out Cold (a chilly $12.4 million) and Life as a House (a poor $15 million).

Then there’s Texas Rangers. Released Nov. 30 in 404 theaters after 18 months on the shelf, the Clearasil-smothered Western continues to fire blanks. Texas Rangers dropped 70 percent in its second weekend, falling from $319,516 to $95,396. Its total is a pitiful but unsurprising $548,629, considering Dimension dumped Texas Rangers without giving it a fighting chance to stand tall and proud.