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Toys Are the Story on Holiday Weekend : Box Office: Disney’s ‘Toy Story’ is Thanksgiving’s big moneymaker. The animated film could propel the five days to a record $152 million in ticket sales.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Disney’s animated feature “Toy Story” was the runaway winner in what will be a record five-day Thanksgiving weekend and could end up being the biggest five days ever in box-office history.

The full-length computer-generated cartoon grossed an estimated $38 million on 2,457 screens, averaging better than $15,000 a screen. And Disney Marketing/Distribution President Dick Cook says that estimate is on the conservative side. Some competitors have the movie closer to $40 million and are pegging it as the film to beat over the lucrative Thanksgiving-Christmas period.

After overestimating the James Bond adventure “GoldenEye” in its first weekend, MGM/UA is calculating the film at $27.1 million for the five-day holiday on 2,667 screens, which competing studios say is again overoptimistic. Regardless, Pierce Brosnan has a good chance of being the biggest grossing Bond in the long-playing adventure series with about $58 million in only 10 days.

With an additional $19 million on 2,705 screens projected for its third weekend, the wacky comedy “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” has already handily surpassed its predecessor and is scurrying toward being the fourth Jim Carrey movie in less than 18 months to cross the $100-million threshold with $86.8 million to date.

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With the movies that placed fourth (“Money Train”), fifth (“Casino”) and sixth (“The American President”) all reporting $13 million or better, Columbia/TriStar’s distribution head Jeff Blake estimates the top six films alone will bring in $130 million for the long weekend. (The only casualty was Johnny Depp’s ninth- place “Nick of Time” which appears to be over before it begins with a miserable $4 million over five days on 1,849 screens.)

When the rest of the top films are factored in, the five-day period could produce about $152 million in ticket sales, says John Krier of Exhibitor Relations, easily the best Thanksgiving ever (by about $12 million). If the numbers hold up, the five days would be stronger than this year’s five-day Fourth of July weekend, which saw a record $150 million in tickets.

Diversity was key to the weekend’s bounteous take, say studio executives. There was plenty of adventure, a couple of family films, a major comedy and a romance--"something for everyone,” says Blake.

The Wesley Snipes/Woody Harrelson $70-million adventure “The Money Train” earned an estimated $16.1 million on 2,522 screens, around $6,300 a theater. But Martin Scorsese’s “Casino,” did comparably better, reports Universal’s Senior Vice President of Distribution Nikki Rocco. The $14-million take is on only 1,616 screens, more than $8,500 a print. That’s Scorsese’s highest debut, despite the film’s three-hour running time. Rocco reports that the primary audience is over 25, but evenly split between males and females. But there’s also a healthy representation from the young male audience.

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The only romance in the mix, “The American President,” could do close to $9,000 a screen, if its $13.5 million five-day estimate holds up. On 1,508 screens, “The American President” has $26.4 million in 10 days, and was the only film to actually increase its attendance over the weekend from Wednesday and Thursday’s business, says Castle Rock partner Martin Shafer, whose company produced the film. Impressively, “President” will likely out-gross its first weekend, according to Shafer.

In seventh place, “It Takes Two,” starring TV’s Olsen twins grew to $6.7 million over Thanksgiving on 1,581 screens and has $12.8 million in 10 days. “Get Shorty” got a new burst of energy for $4.65 million on 1,522 screens and has now grossed about $62 million. Rounding out the top 10 is “Home for the Holidays,” Jodie Foster’s under-performer, which grossed $3 million on 1,000 screens and has amassed only $14.5 million in its first four weekends.


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