Monsters, Inc. stormed theaters last weekend by taking in $62.5 million, a record opening for an animated film and the sixth-best debut in history. Incredibly, the Disney/Pixar energy-producing allegory beat Toy Story 2's $57.3 million 1999 opening and shredded Shrek's $42.3 million May debut.
Monsters, Inc. continued to make a fortune into the week, earning a total $73.2 million through Wednesday. In contrast, Toy Story 2 generated $80.1 million in its first five days, but had the benefit of opening during the extended Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Shrek had a $56.6 million opening, and like Toy Story 2, took 11 days to make $100 million.
Even if it experiences a 50 percent drop in business, Monsters, Inc. will likely reach $100 million by Sunday, its 10th day in theaters. This will end the box office slump Disney has faced with its recent, albeit traditional, animated adventures The Emperor's New Groove and Atlantis.
Monsters, Inc. will wither with the arrival of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but its ability to make both parent and child laugh heartily should enable it to remain competitive during the busy holiday season. If so, the ongoing warfare between Disney and bitter rival DreamWorks will doubtless escalate.
In 1998, Disney and DreamWorks clashed over their respective animated creepy-crawly yarns. DreamWorks pushed up the release of Antz and enjoyed a $90.7 million hit. Weeks later, Disney/Pixar squashed Antz with A Bug's Life, which went on to make $162 million.
Disney and DreamWorks clashed again this summer, with Shrek scaring up $267.2 million vs. Atlantis' waterlogged $83.8 million. Shrek also remains the year's biggest earner, though it does now face a credible challenge from Monsters, Inc. and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.
Peter and Bobby Farrelly's farce--featuring Jack Black as a boorish womanizer hypnotized into seeing only a woman's inner beauty--enjoyed near-full houses at 500 theaters during sneak previews held last weekend. Shallow Hal won't surpass the $24.9 million opening by last year's offering from the brothers, Me, Myself & Irene, given that Black has yet to established himself as a major draw. But the sight of love interest Gwyneth Paltrow in a fat suit should ensure Shallow Hal matches or exceeds the $13.7 million opening that the brothers' There's Something About Mary made in 1998.
The brothers would welcome the good news. Me, Myself & Irene--despite reuniting the brothers with their Dumb and Dumber cohort Jim Carrey--couldn't make more than $90.5 million. This summer's Osmosis Jones, whose live-action sequences were directed by the brothers, made an ulcer-inducing $13.5 million. Say It Isn't So, produced by the brothers, mustered just $5.5 million.
The Heist's the thing for David Mamet. The playwright, screenwriter and director aims for mainstream acceptance with this thriller, featuring Gene Hackman as a crook out to pull one last job. Mamet, when sitting in the director's chair, rarely infuses his dialogue-driven character studies with commercial sensibilities. The closest he got was with last year's Hollywood satire State and Main, which made just $6.9 million despite an ensemble cast headed by Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker and Mamet regular William H. Macy.
Hackman reunites with Get Shorty co-stars Danny DeVito and Delroy Lindo, but that might not be enough to entice audiences already satiated by such recent heist yarns as Snatch, The Score, Sexy Beast and Bandits.
Heist also must fend off Domestic Disturbance, starring another Get Shorty colleague, John Travolta. The thriller opened last weekend with a good $14 million, and has made $16.7 million through Wednesday. Audiences clearly are willing to take a chance on Travolta despite last year's back-to-back embarrassments Battlefield Earth and Lucky Numbers. Still, Domestic Disturbance is unlikely to match the so-so $69.7 million made this summer by Travolta's loud and obnoxious Swordfish.
Heist also goes against Life as a House, which expands this weekend to 1,200 screens after two weeks in limited release. Touted by distributor New Line as the next American Beauty, but lacking the necessary reviews to support this claim, Life as a House faces a tough time trying to reap Oscar gold and commercial longevity. The Kevin Kline weepie has taken an OK $976,000 in two weekends at a maximum of 88 theaters. Last weekend's screen average of $6,644 suggests that Life as a House needs a more solid foundation if it is to stand tall among such upcoming Oscar bait as Ali, The Shipping News, A Beautiful Mind and The Royal Tenenbaums.
One hundred and twenty five Jet Lis are clearly better than one. The martial arts master's sci-fi epic The One opened last weekend with $19.1 million--$22 million through Wednesday--and will most likely surpass the totals for Romeo Must Die ($55.9 million) and Kiss of the Dragon ($36.8 million) with relative ease.
The closet-slamming antics of two digitized monsters somewhat spoiled the vacationing plans of alien Kevin Spacey. K-PAX dropped 42 percent from its record Halloween opening of $17.2 million to $10 million. K-PAX's total through Wednesday is $33.4 million, so it is still on course to become co-star Jeff Bridges' biggest hit since 1991's The Fisher King ($41.7 million).
Thirteen Ghosts lost almost half its audience in its second weekend, just as House on Haunted Hill did in post-Halloween 1999. Robert Zemeckis and Joel Silver produced both remakes of these old William Castle chillers. Thirteen Ghosts dropped from $15.1 million to $7.8 million, bringing its total through Wednesday to $29.3 million. By the end of its second weekend, House on Haunted Hill had earned $30.4 million, on its way to a total $40.8 million. The same, or slightly less, can be expected of Thirteen Ghosts.
The passing of Halloween also hurt From Hell, which is slowly but surely carving out an anemic $30 million. This revisionist take on Jack the Ripper's murderous rampage has made just $27.1 million through Wednesday. Johnny Depp may have scored with Sleepy Hollow, but such other recent forays into horror as The Astronaut's Wife and The Ninth Gate proved worthless endeavors. Time, perhaps, for Depp to wipe the blood off his hands and offer us something as sickly sweet as Chocolat again.