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THE COMING BOX OFFICE WEEKEND (NOVEMBER 22-26, 2000):

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May 08, 2001 | 3:19am EDT

Three films should enjoy heaping portions of box office pie over a five-day Thanksgiving period in which the marketplace expands to $240 million or more.

Which movie carves itself the biggest slice of holiday business remains to be seen, but insiders say the happy chart-topping trio will be Universal and Imagine Entertainment's "Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas," last weekend's Number One film, and Buena Vista's two openings -- Disney's "102 Dalmatians" and Touchstone's "Unbreakable."

Also likely to be well fed at the holiday box office buffet are two holdovers -- Paramount and Nickelodeon's "Rugrats In Paris" and Columbia's "Charlie's Angels."

After kicking off to $55.1 million last weekend, the PG-rated comedy adventure "Grinch" should have $70 million as it goes into this weekend at 3,134 theaters (up 7 runs from last week). It should have $100 million under its box office belt by the time Thanksgiving weekend is over.

"$30 million is very doable on 'Grinch' for the three days," an insider comments.

Directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer, "Grinch" stars Jim Carrey.

"Nobody knows who's going to be one, two or three," a distributor insists. "Not one person I've spoken to can make that prediction. They just don't know. It's 'Grinch,' 'Dalmatians' or 'Unbreakable.'"

If "Grinch" falls only 30% over the three-day weekend portion of the holiday period, it will do about $38.5 million. A 40% drop, however, would put it at about $33 million for three days.

"I'm not expecting 'Grinch' to be Number One because I can't imagine that one of them -- 'Dalmatians' or 'Unbreakable' -- is not going to do $35-$40 million," says a studio source. "'Grinch' has to be off from the heat of opening weekend."

"Dalmatians," a live-action, G-rated sequel, arrives today (November 22) at 2,704 theaters. "I feel that it's a Disney film and it will be gangbusters," an insider predicts.

Directed by Kevin Lima, "Dalmatians" stars Glenn Close and Gerard Depardieu.

"Unbreakable," a PG-13-rated supernatural thriller, also opens today (November 22) at 2,708 theaters. The film is flying high on Hollywood's radar screens because it reteams the director and star of Touchstone's blockbuster "The Sixth Sense."

"Those are the three films that will be number one, two and three," a studio source points out. "In what order? Only the movie gods know."

Directed by M. Night Shyamalan, "Unbreakable" stars Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson.

As for the five-day Thanksgiving period, says one executive, "I think it's going to be a tremendous weekend. I think you're looking at somewhere between $240-250 million." That would set a new record for the extended Thanksgiving holiday, breaking the 1999 record of $219 million by about 10% to 15%. (For details of Thanksgiving grosses over the past decade, see below.)

Paramount and Nickelodeon Movies' G-rated animated sequel "Rugrats in Paris: The Movie" was a colorful Number Two last weekend with $22.7 million. It will be at 2,937 theaters (up 3 runs from last week) and should benefit from favorable word of mouth. Insiders believe it was the second choice film for family audiences last weekend and now that so many people have already seen "Grinch," "Rugrats" could be next on their list.

If there were no "Dalmatians," "Rugrats" would be a safe bet to finish third, but with "Dalmatians" a very real factor in the marketplace, the animated sequel should be fourth.

"Word of mouth is good on 'Rugrats,' so maybe they won't take too bad a hit from 'Dalmatians,'" an insider speculates. "But if 'Dalmatians' is huge, then 'Rugrats' is going to get hurt."

Directed by Stig Bergqvist and Paul Demeyer, it was produced by Arlene Klasky and Gabor Csupo.

Columbia's PG-13-rated action adventure comedy "Charlie's Angels" should round out the Top Five in its fourth weekend. With a cume of over $94 million at mid-week, it's on track to hit $100 million well before Thanksgiving weekend ends. "Angels" will be in 2,838 theaters, 199 runs less than last week.

Sony, Columbia's corporate parent, is launching "Angels" in 27 international territories this weekend to capitalize on the global media heat stemming from its strong performance in the U.S. and Canada. "Angels" will go into such key markets as Australia, the U.K., Italy, Sweden, Korea and various countries in South America. It has already opened to very big business in Japan and Mexico. Given "Angels" domestic theatrical success and its likely strength abroad, it could wind up as a $300 million worldwide blockbuster for Sony Pictures.

Directed by McG, "Angels" stars Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Bill Murray.

Phoenix Pictures' PG-13-rated sci-fi action adventure "The 6th Day," a Columbia release, should drop out of the Top Five after opening in fourth place last weekend to a disappointing $13 million. "Day" will be in 2,516 theaters, the same number as last week.

Directed by Roger Spottiswoode, "Day" stars Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Also departing the Top Five should be Miramax's PG-13-rated romantic drama "Bounce," which finished fifth last week with a hopeful $11.4 million. "Bounce" will add 96 runs in its second weekend, going from 1,918 to 2,014 theaters.

"Bounce" should benefit from being the only new film in the marketplace targeted specifically to women. Miramax said under-25 women were on hand to see it last weekend, but women 25 and older were less well represented because they were taking their children to see "Grinch." This group of adult women could be more available after Thanksgiving to go to a film that they want to see, themselves; if so, "Bounce" could enjoy a box office bounce.

Written and directed by Don Roos, it stars Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Filling out lower rungs: "Men Of Honor," "Meet the Parents" and "The Legend of Bagger Vance."

On the limited release front, Fox Searchlight Pictures will open its R-rated drama "Quills" at 9 theaters in major markets.

Directed by Philip Kaufman, it stars Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet.

On the expansion front, Paramount Classics' R-rated drama "You Can Count On Me" will widen to 53 theaters, up 18 from last week.

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, it stars Laura Linney.

THANKSGIVING BOX OFFICE HISTORY

Looking back over the last decade indicates that Buena Vista has had the Number One film over Thanksgiving weekend for the past six years. In terms of the overall marketplace, Thanksgiving has grown considerably -- from only about $112 million in 1990 to nearly $219 million in 1999 and a projected $240-250 million this year.

Last Thanksgiving, key films -- those grossing $500,000 or more for five days -- took in $218.9 million.

Buena Vista/Disney and Pixar's animated sequel "Toy Story 2" led last year's pack with $80.1 million. MGM/UA's James Bond sequel "The World Is Not Enough" was second with $34 million. Universal's Arnold Schwarzenegger epic "End of Days" opened in third place to $31.5 million. Paramount's "Sleepy Hollow" from director Tim Burton was fourth with $26.9 million. Warner Bros.' animated "Pokemon" rounded out the Top Five with $9.1 million. In 1998, key films grossed $176.9 million, led by Buena Vista's "A Bug's Life" with $45.7 million.

In 1997, key films took in $147.2 million, led by Buena Vista's "Flubber" with $35.9 million.

In 1996, key films did $146.5 million, led by Buena Vista's "101 Dalmatians" with $45.1 million.

In 1995, key films collected $154.3 million, led by Buena Vista's "Toy Story" with $39.1 million.

In 1994, key films earned $134.8 million, led by Buena Vista's "The Santa Clause" with $27.4 million.

In 1993, key films grossed $106.8 million, led by 20th Century Fox's "Mrs. Doubtfire" with $27.6 million.

In 1992, key films took in $134.2 million, led by 20th Century Fox's "Home Alone 2: Lost In New York" with $39.0 million.

In 1991, key films did $97.7 million, led by Paramount's "The Addams Family" with $27.8 million.

In 1990, key films took in $111.7 million, led by 20th Century Fox's "Home Alone" with $28.7 million.

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