*But with recount, U could still take title

Trying to declare the winner of the 2000 B.O. market share race is a bit like calling a winner of Florida on election night.

But with 98% of precincts reporting and only the tame New Year’s frame still to come, it appears that Disney has won its third-straight crown, holding off hard-charging Universal. The margin coming out of the weekend was in the $20 million-$25 million range.

The four-day Christmas weekend proved decisive in the race, but mainly because U’s “The Family Man” failed to ignite, notching $15.1 million to finish third despite a considerable promo push. The Nicolas Cage-Tea Leoni feel-gooder snaps U’s five-pic string of launching films in the No. 1 spot.

“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” nearly did as well as “Family Man” for U, adding $14.7 million to its already loaded sleigh. In the year’s final seven days, the Jim Carrey juggernaut remains the studio’s lone hope for finishing No. 1. It’s not completely out of the question, given the number of moviegoers home from school or work this week.

Meanwhile, the Mouse House busied itself with the task of winning ugly over the Christmas frame, recording $9.6 million on “The Emperor’s New Groove.” The animated effort is a lackluster grosser, but it supplied enough dollars to likely put Disney over the top for the seventh time in the past 11 years.

Neither Disney nor U dominated the weekend. Instead it was Fox, whose “Cast Away” smashed Yule records with a $39.8 million bow over four days.

Budgeted at $90 million, co-venture with DreamWorks is well on its way to becoming the next notch in Tom Hanks’ B.O. belt. The star’s last four efforts have passed $115 million domestically. Counting the two “Toy Story” toons, his past six releases have averaged $180 million.

Thanks, Hanks

Career-best opener for Hanks also spurred the overall B.O. to another heady showing. Weekend receipts totaled $154.4 million, up 13% from last year and virtually assuring that 2000 revenue will surpass 1999 levels.

Mel Gibson starrer “What Women Want” held its own for Paramount, collecting $21.6 million to reach $70.2 million overall.

Weekend-to-weekend comparisons don’t really apply around the end-of-year holidays, as business usually evaporates on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Last year, Christmas fell on Saturday, heavily suppressing grosses. This year, its Monday occurrence was a gift to distribs, providing a four-day weekend.

Next to Fox’s “Cast Away,” which brought in a healthy $10 million on Monday’s holiday, no pic made much of a statement.

‘Tiger’ tale

Sony Pictures Classics’ “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” expanded admirably, hitting 143 locations and reaping another $3.7 million. Cume stands at $6.5 million after three frames.

Bowing on Christmas Day, New Line drama “Thirteen Days” posted $46,668 at eight Gotham and L.A. blast sites.

Another Monday launch was “All the Pretty Horses.” Miramax oater sowed an uninspiring $1.3 million from 1,483 playdates, for a slim average of $880.

On the upside for Miramax, its Dimension Films unit scored $8.6 million on “Dracula 2000,” almost $1 million more than the minimajor had estimated Monday.

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