'Mile,' toon hit $18 mil; 'Deuce' aces $13 mil

Distribs are making a list and checking it twice. Today they’ll find out who’s been naughty or nice.

Yes, box office controversy is coming to town.

A weekend snowball fight pitted Disney against Warner Bros. Mouse House claimed a third straight weekly crown, estimating take for “Toy Story 2″ at $18.7 million. Warners insisted its “The Green Mile” won the frame with an $18.6 million debut.

“We believe we’re No. 1. And when Monday’s numbers are in, we’re still going to be No. 1,” Disney distrib chief Chuck Viane said.

“When you’re in your third week, you’ve got to let other people live,” said an incredulous Dan Fellman, distrib head at Warners.

Regardless of the order of finish, Tom Hanks comes out a winner, as the lead thesp in “Green Mile” is also lead voice of Pixar-animated “Toy.”

The tussle came against a fairly bland backdrop. Weekend overall proved routine, with a $77 million estimate rising slightly above last year’s total of $74.6 million and dipped a bit from last weekend’s $80.5 million.

December historically is more of a launching pad than a B.O. bonanza, making predictions for “Green Mile” tricky. Award noms are likely to make or break the Steven King-based death-row drama.

Only six pics have ever opened at more than $20 million in December, though plenty of winners — namely all-time champ “Titanic” — have struck their Oscar poses at this time.

Adults boost ‘Toy’

Viane credited adult auds for boosting “Toy Story 2.” Many sites are screening the pic as late as 10 p.m. with strong results.

Toon has a good shot at $200 million by year’s end; if so, that would make Disney the first studio to release two such grossers in the same year. (The other Mouse House smash, of course, was “The Sixth Sense,” whose cume is $274 million and counting.)

Though irked by the estimates, Warners pointed to several strong signs on “Green Mile,” which will be released overseas by Universal under a pact with Castle Rock.

About 56% of auds were female, with 70% older than 25. Both numbers are significant for a prison drama with some harsh content and a three-hour running time.

A solid 81% listed the film as a “definite recommend.” Fellman said exit polls were the best in studio history.

Martin Shafer, prexy of Castle Rock Pictures, which produced “Green Mile,” called the opening auspicious. He said it should minimize carping about the pic’s length.

“People make a decision about whether to see a movie based on whether they think it’s a good movie, not whether it’s long or short,” he said. “A lot of 90-minute movies are too long.”

American ‘Gigolo’

Disney also enjoyed a side of raunch dressing as “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo” grabbed the No. 3 spot. Rob Schneider vehicle averaged $6,058 per screen, besting “Toy Story 2″ in that category.

Pic looks like a decent profit engine, especially with the next R-rated wide-release comedy being New Line’s “Next Friday” in January.

Platforms and Oscar qualifiers stole the limited-release show.

Sony Classics’ “Sweet and Lowdown” averaged $18,383 on each of six screens. Woody Allen-helmed pic added three L.A. sites and brought its cume after 10 days to roughly $250,000.

Sony kept drama “The End of the Affair” on seven screens and netted about $117,000, for a sturdy average of $16,726. Disney ushered in “Cradle Will Rock” on eight screens, totaling $94,000. Cume of star-studded Tim Robbins-directed legit paean is $125,142 after Wednesday’s bow.

Warners’ “Liberty Heights” played on 42 screens, up from six the week before. Weekend estimate of $290,000 included a 130% jump in Saturday receipts over Friday’s. Cume of Barry Levinson-lensed mid-century drama is about $725,000. On Dec. 22, it’ll go up to 101 runs.

‘House’ fails to rule

“The Cider House Rules” opened modestly for Miramax, harvesting $115,000 from eight orchards. Pic is minimajor’s last trophy gasp in an unremarkable 1999.

“Cider” far outshone Miramax’s “Diamonds,” which bowed to $7,500 in a two-screen Academy Awards qualifying run.

With “Tumbleweeds,” Fine Line is trying to end two years of middling B.O. results. Top grosser out of 17 releases in that span is “Pecker” at $2.3 million.

“Tumbleweeds” expanded to 30 screens, but could muster just $76,683, or just $2,556 on average. Around Christmas, it’ll gain about 200 screens.

Weekend’s Top 10 chart hardly budged from No. 4 to No. 10. USA Films’ “Being John Malkovich” kept bucking rivals’ downtrend, with its tally dropping just 31%, compared with 40-50% for most top titles.

Bond $100 mil-bound

MGM’s “The World Is Not Enough” — known among James Bond fans by the acronym “T.W.I.N.E.” — should hit the $100 million plateau in the next day or two. Estimated cume entering its fourth week was $99.5 million.

With “Pokemon: The First Movie” still soldiering on in ninth place, Warners may now be in record territory in terms of studio gross. Fellman put studio’s 1999 cume for all pics at $952 million through Sunday, which tops the mark of $948 million set in 1993.

With Oliver Stone’s football pic launching later this month, $1 billion for the year is feasible.

Disney ran 260 sneaks of “Bicentennial Man.” Studio reported 80% capacity and 94% of auds rating pic “very good” or “excellent.”

Robin Williams cuddlefest is shaping up as a major entry in next week’s family derby. The packed holiday frame will feature wide debuts for Fox’s “Anna and the King” and Sony’s “Stuart Little” — and, of course, the continuing saga that is “Toy Story 2.”

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