By the Numbers: Dec. 7

Better watch out, Harry Potter, because Danny Ocean is back on the job.

Forget three casinos in one night: Director Steven Soderbergh‘s remake of the Rat Pack heist romp Ocean’s Eleven looks certain to steal the hearts and wallets of every woman in America this weekend. And there’s not a single spell that mop-topped apprentice wizard can cast to keep George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon from committing the perfect crime.

With Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone showing signs of fatigue in its third weekend, Ocean’s Eleven looks primed to hijack the record for a December opening. The current record holder, Mel Gibson‘s What Women Want, opened last year with $33.6 million, on its way to $180.2 million. Women swooned over the sight of Gibson climbing into tights, so just imagine what the assembling of the sharp-dressed Clooney, Pitt, Damon, Andy Garcia, Scott Caan, Casey Affleck, Don Cheadle and, ahem, Carl Reiner will do. And, for the male contingency in the mood for something more than just razor-sharp banter and a parade of gadgets straight out of Q’s lab, there’s eye candy in the form of the underutilized Julia Roberts.

That the original Ocean’s Eleven, released in 1960, doesn’t rank as a beloved classic also means long lines are likely to form for the remake. The original seemed an excuse for Frank Sinatra to womanize, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. to croon a few songs, and Peter Lawford to hit the bar at the break of dawn. It coasted on its ability to unite the Rat Pack for the first–and most successful–time on the silver screen.

The remake veers significantly from the original, starting with the number of casinos hit in one night scaled back from five to three. Pitt may play Martin to Clooney‘s Sinatra (without bursting into song), but that’s where the similarities end. Soderbergh offers a fun and jazzy remake minus a self-conscious nod to the days when the Rat Pack symbolized all that was hip and cool.

To this end, Ocean’s Eleven could make more in its opening weekend than the $37.5 million that the first SoderberghClooney collaboration made in total, the slightly more substantial Out of Sight. Ocean’s Eleven also should give Soderbergh his third consecutive $100 million hit, following last year’s Oscar-winning Erin Brockovich ($125.5 million) and Traffic ($124.1 million). Erin Brockovich, of course, earned Roberts an Academy Award this year, but it’s unlikely that such a stylish but frothy caper shall enjoy Oscar gold without stealing it.

Though likely to drop only as far as to No. 2, Harry Potter could still take a hard tumble this weekend. Director Chris Columbus‘ adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s literary smash-the first of seven films planned-dropped a troubling 59 percent in its third weekend, from $57.4 million to $23.6 million. Big earners tend to drop hard during the post-Thanksgiving week, yet Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas still managed to log $27 million this time last year after a Thanksgiving take of $52.1 million. The Grinch also enjoyed a $18.6 million fourth weekend, but that seems a reach for young Mr. Potter. Harry Potter should fall to between $13 million and $15 million. Still, Harry Potter has amassed $223.6 million in its 20th day vs. The Grinch‘s $175.7 million, and should surpassed its total $260 million without the need to resort to magic.

Harry Potter does lag behind Star Wars: Episode One – The Phantom Menace, which made $259.6 million in its first 20 days. At this pace, Harry Potter looks certain to surpass Shrek‘s $267.6 million to become the year’s top-grossing film, with between $300 million and $325 million its likely total.

America’s renewed patriotism paid dividends for Behind Enemy Lines, with the Bosnian-set war drama reaping $22.1 million through Wednesday. That justifies 20th Century Fox’s decision to push up Behind Enemy Lines‘s release date by six weeks in light of terrific post-Sept. 11 previews. (The same ploy failed for Black Knight, which Fox moved from mid-January to Nov. 21 with disastrous results.)

Owen Wilson, though, may find it easier to defeat an entire army of Serbian rebels than face 11 suave and sophisticated thieves. Like the similarly themed Spy Game, Behind Enemy Lines should experienced a second weekend drop of almost 50 percent.

Pitt may enjoy a huge opening this weekend with Ocean’s Eleven, but it will come at the expense of his other new release, Spy Game. Director Tony Scott‘s globe-trotting thriller, with Robert Redford trying to save fellow spy Pitt from execution at the hands of the Chinese, dropped from $21.6 million to $11 million in its second weekend with the arrival of the more action-oriented Behind Enemy Lines. Pitt fans must now decide between seeing him bloodied and bruised or perfectly manicured with his matinee-idol looks in plain sight for once. Any guess as to which Pitt his fans want to spend the night with?

Still, Spy Game has $48.8 million through Wednesday. That’s slightly behind Scott‘s previous foray into high-tech espionage, Enemy of the State, which earned $52.3 million in its 13th day of release on its way to $111.5 million.

France’s Amelie continues to dazzle. The arthouse sensation has $7.5 million through Wednesday, having played at no more than 218 theaters. That bodes well for Amelie‘s chance of returning triumphant to Paris arm in arm with a fellow by the name of Oscar.

After a month-long rampage, Monsters, Inc. lost some of its footing in its fifth weekend with a 62 percent post-Thanksgiving drop. The Disney/Pixar adventure, with John Goodman and Billy Crystal providing the voice for two lovable, energy-producing monsters, has $205.3 million through Wednesday. Monsters, Inc. remains competitive with Shrek, which scared up $202.5 million during the same period of business. In order to drum up repeat business, Disney/Pixar will add new footage to Monsters, Inc. this weekend in the form of faux outtakes.

Interest in the strange love affair between Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow is on the wane, after a $4.5 million fourth weekend. Shallow Hal has $61.9 million through Wednesday, with a total $70 million a certainty. That’s cause for celebration for directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly, who endured the failures of Osmosis Jones ($13.5 million) and Say It Isn’t So ($5.6 million) earlier this year.

Bad luck still plagues Martin Lawrence, whose Black Knight is a far from noble box office combatant. The time-hopping comedy, set in medieval England, dropped 50 percent in its second weekend from $11 million to $5.5 million. This comes hot on the heels of the summer’s What’s the Worst that Could Happen?, which earned Lawrence his worst haul since 1995’s Bad Boys made him a movie star. Black Knight looks set to make no more than the paltry $32.2 million earned by What’s the Worst that Could Happen?, Black Knight has $23.6 million through Wednesday.