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‘Stuart’ B.O. still stellar

Loquacious mouse has Sony talking franchise

Sony is hoping “Stuart Little” will boldly go where “Godzilla” and “Men in Black” have failed to go before: Sequelville.

The studio can draw some encouragement from the pic’s weekend-topping tally: an estimated $16 million. Cume stands at $79.7 million.

“It’s got real franchise possibilities,” said Sony distrib chief Jeff Blake. “That’s what has us excited.”

Final figure on the partly animated pic should be at least $125 million, Blake predicted. He added that with $52 million between Christmas Eve and Jan. 2, pic ranks No. 1 all-time in that 10-day span.

Two limited release pics set off their own millennium fireworks. Universal’s “The Hurricane” punched up $295,000 on 11 screens in Gotham, L.A. and Toronto, roughly a $26,790 per-screen average.

Disney’s “Fantasia 2000” kicked off a four-month run in Imax theaters on New Year’s Day. Feature-length toon collected about $1 million on Saturday alone.

With large-format theaters lacking efficient B.O. reporting mechanisms, Disney’s Chuck Viane opted not to provide a Sunday estimate. But he noted that 40 of the 46 North American sites reported house records. The screen average was about $22,000.

“Stuart Little” handily won the holiday weekend frame, which featured no wide-release debuts and few unusually strong results. But distribs kept an even keel about the unspectacular weekend. Given all the distractions, it could have been far worse. Warner Bros. nipped at “Stuart’s” tiny heels with “The Green Mile” and “Any Given Sunday.”

Disney’s “Toy Story 2” and Paramount’s “The Talented Mr. Ripley” rounded out the top five.

With the exception of “Mile,” most adult pics were flat or slightly down compared with last week’s three-day period.

Universal’s “Man on the Moon” swooned 31% to fall to ninth place.

Overall B.O. came in at $112 million, ACNielsen EDI estimated. That’s about even from the year-ago frame during which New Year’s Eve was Thursday and no Y2K hype eroded grosses.

The holiday frame from Nov. 19 to Jan. 2 totaled $1.098 billion, eclipsing last year’s record of $1.048 billion.

Besides “Hurricane” and “Fantasia,” only bows were Sony Classics’ “The Third Miracle,” which grossed an unmiraculous $31,220 at six sites, and “Mr. Death,” which did $25,000 on three screens for Lions Gate.

Holdovers feasted on holiday word of mouth to show the best gains.

Universal’s “Snow Falling on Cedars” reaped $35,000 on three screens in its second week.

Miramax made progress with “The Cider House Rules,” which grossed $1.4 million on 332 screens for a cume of $3.7 million.

On the other side of the artistic spectrum from “Stuart Little,” Sony nurtured “The End of the Affair” and “Girl, Interrupted.” Neil Jordan-helmed “Affair” took in $365,000, or a $6,293 average on 58 screens. “Girl,” starring Winona Ryder, did $110,000 in nine locations, averaging $12,178.

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