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Holiday B.O. goes to the dogs

'Dalmatians' takes $46 mil in 5-day frame

Buena Vista’s “101 Dalmatians” made a feast of the Turkey Day weekend, lapping up a studio-estimated $34.2 million in three days and chewing to shreds the previous Friday-Sunday Thanksgiving record of $29.1 million set by BV’s “Toy Story” last year.

“Dalmatians” opened in 2,794 kennels for a boisterous $12,241 average, despite spotty reviews.

The live-action remake also appeared likely to set a new five-day record for the holiday frame, with an estimated $46 million. That would top the $43 million five-day Thanksgiving debut of Universal’s “Back to the Future II” in 1989.

In addition, the film set a one-day Thanksgiving weekend record, taking in $13.3 million Friday, besting “Toy Story’s” $11.5 million top single-day haul.

The film is an updated, live-action remake of the 1961 toon “101 Dalmatians,” Disney’s sixth-highest-grossing fully animated feature. The original has collected domestic receipts of $144 million since its debut in 1961.

“Giving it a fresh, contemporary spin with real live dogs and adding Glenn Close as Cruella DeVil makes it a movie that appeals to the widest possible audience,” said Dick Cook, chairman of Disney’s motion picture group.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox’s “The Crucible” bowed to $59,000 in an exclusive run at Sony’s Lincoln Center theater in New York. The Nicholas Hytner-helmed adaptation of Arthur Miller’s stage play has cumed $99,000 since its Wednesday debut.

Second place went to last weekend’s B.O. champ, Paramount’s “Star Trek: First Contact,” which fell 40% to $17.7 million for the three-day period. Landing on 2,812 planets, the sci-fi adventure beamed up $6,294 per encounter. Cume after 10 days is a bold $60.7 million.

Warner Bros.’ “Space Jam” took third place, scoring $14 million in 2,650 games for a shooting average of $5,283. The Michael Jordan-Bugs Bunny starrer has cumed a high-flying $67.9 million after just 17 days.

Fox’s “Jingle All the Way” rang up $13.1 million for fourth place, an 8% jump from its opening last weekend. The Arnold Schwarzenegger Christmas comedy shopped in 2,409 malls for a $5,438 average. Total to date is $31.3 million.

$100 mil club

BV’s “Ransom” picked up $12.8 million in 2,588 outings for a still-thrilling $4,946 average at fifth place. The Mel Gibson starrer became the 11th film released this year to cross the $100 million mark Saturday, finishing out the weekend with an estimated $105.3 million.

In sixth place, Sony and Phoenix Pictures’ “The Mirror Has Two Faces” polished off $6.2 million in 2,489 situations for a $2,491 average. After its third weekend in release, the Barbra Streisand romancer has cumed $33.7 million.

Virile ‘Patient’

Miramax’s “The English Patient” jumped 74% to $4.7 million with its expansion from 268 to 593 theaters to land at seventh. Miramax plans to keep the film, which averaged a healthy $7,926 per screen, at this level until Christmas, when it hopes to expand further. Now in its third week, the romantic drama has cumed $9.6 million.

New Line’s “Set It Off” was up 2% at eighth to $3.4 million in 1,051 situations, giving it a per-screen average of $3,234. Cume after four weekends is $30.6 million.

In ninth place, Fox’s “William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet” killed off $2.5 million in 1,414 feuds for a $1,768 average. Now in its fifth week, the Baz Luhrmann-helmed tragedy has cumed $41.3 million.

WB’s “Sleepers” rested in 10th place, dropping off 40% to catch $820,000 winks in $1,110 beds for a $739 average. Cume after seven weeks is $50.8 million.

Among limited releases, Fine Line’s “Shine” continued to play well, up 48% to $240,000 on 10 screens in New York, Chicago, L.A. and Toronto; cume after 10 days is $502,000.

Miramax’s “Ridicule” pulled in $53,000 in its U.S. debut on three New York screens, for a $17,667 average. Less prodigious was the minimajor’s high-priced acquisition “Sling Blade,” which sliced off just $30,000 on three screens in New York, L.A. and Chicago.

Also lackluster was BV’s “The War at Home,” which grossed $14,000 in six demonstrations, or $2,333 per screen. Cume after 10 days is $36,100. First Look’s “Bitter Sugar” harvested $34,000 on 11 screens in L.A., New York and Miami, or $3,090 per field. Cume is $264,000.

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