B.O. FORECAST: Casting Mel Away?

Santa is not the only big boy coming out to play this Christmas holiday.

Things are certainly looking up in December after Mel Gibson‘s $34 million-plus record-setting opening last weekend at the box office for “What Women Want.”

And judging from the big names, business is only going to be better this weekend as heavily anticipated films such as Tom Hanks‘ “Cast Away” and Nicolas Cage‘s “Family Man” bow nationwide today.

“It’s going to be a huge weekend this holiday. I can’t see how it can’t be, with all the hot openings and strong holdovers,” Brandon Gray, editor of boxofficemojo.com, told Hollywood.com.

And despite all the new entries breathing down its neck, Gray maintains that Gibson‘s “What Women Want” might not go quietly down the rankings and that the battle to watch this four-day holiday at the box office will be between the mind-reading romantic comedy and Hank‘s “Cast Away.”

And without further ado, here’s a look at the major films that will be opening during the long Christmas holiday weekend.



THE SKINNY: Multiple Oscar winner Tom Hanks plays a FedEx guy stranded on an island after he miraculously survives a plane crash (and you thought Bruce Willis was lucky in “Unbreakable“). Helen Hunt again plays second fiddle as the girlfriend who has been worried sick. THE UPSIDE: “It’s going to be a super close weekend between ‘Cast Away‘ and ‘What Women Want,’ but I am giving the edge to the Tom Hanks film,” Gray says. “It seems like Tom Hanks has another winner here. He’s reteaming with his ‘Forrest Gump‘ director Robert Zemeckis, and the film has a very impressive marketing campaign.” THE DOWNSIDE: The scraggly Hanks reminds you too much of “Survivor” jackpot winner Richard Hatch … especially whenever Hanks is half-naked, which is pretty often.


THE SKINNY: Oh, the big “what if”: Nicolas Cage does a turn as a ruthless banker who wakes up one day to find himself shacked up in a beautiful house and a beautiful wife that were not his before. THE UPSIDE: It’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” with a somewhat modern overhaul. THE DOWNSIDE: Alas, Cage is no Jimmy Stewart. And, alas, the film will probably only be good enough for a No. 3 or No. 4 opening this weekend, depending on if “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” continues to make a killing, Gray predicts.


THE SKINNY: Sandra Bullock plays an FBI agent planted as a mole in a beauty pageant to thwart a terrorist bombing. THE UPSIDE: “This film is a wild card,” Gray said. “It could come in at No. 5. It’s either that or ‘The Emperor’s New Groove.'” THE DOWNSIDE: Remember “28 Days“? Need we say more.


THE SKINNY: Horror-meister Wes Craven‘s millennial update of the bloodsucker yarn. This one has Justine Waddell, Christopher Plummer, singer Vitamin C and Omar Epps. THE UPSIDE: The teen-heavy horror film is trying to duplicate the success of “Scream 2” back in 1997, which also opened during the same weekend. And this positioning of “Dracula 2000” for the teen set might just work, especially when the marketplace is saturated with sappy, old fart flicks. THE DOWNSIDE: If you really want to see a vampire flick, it might serve your needs better to see “Shadow of the Vampire” next week.

And that’s not all. Over in the limited release category, there’re the “Good Will Hunting“-esque “Finding Forrester” with Sean Connery and the psychological drama “The Gift” with Cate Blanchett, last year’s Best Actress Oscar winner Hilary Swank and Keanu Reeves (as a wife beater, no less).

Plus: the Coen Brothers’ “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” with George Clooney and the David Mamet comedy “State and Main” will also open in limited release.



THE SKINNY: In this tale helmed by Billy Bob Thornton, Matt Damon plays a Texas cowboy heading south of the border for some adventure and life experience. He finds both in Penelope Cruz, who plays the daughter of a Mexican rancher not too keen on the burgeoning romance. THE UPSIDE: Since the film opens on Christmas Day and at the tail end of the four-day holiday weekend, it will definitely not be a Top Five contender. But, as Gray says, that shouldn’t keep the film from doing decent business for the day. THE DOWNSIDE: The talented Mr. Damon was swiftly forgotten by moviegoers in “The Legend of Beggar Vance.” Will audiences do the same to him with this film?

Kevin Costner‘s Cuban Missile Crisis drama “Thirteen Days” and the luscious period piece “Vatel” with Uma Thurman and Gerard Depardieu both also open — in New York and Los Angeles — on Christmas Day.

And don’t forget other holdovers such as “Dude, Where’s My Car?,” “Vertical Limit,” and “Proof of Life” to finish out the Top 10.