Napping B.O. preps for holiday feast

The box office took its usual post-Turkey Day siesta over the weekend, pausing briefly between a record-breaking November and what promises to be a holiday slugfest beginning Friday.

Total receipts for the top 60 films came to $58.2 million, down 49% from the three-day Thanksgiving frame.

Time trouble

An unusually late Thanksgiving Day means Americans have less time than usual this year to address holiday cards or trim trees – or to visit the local multiplex. Still, business was up almost 10% compared with the equivalent 1995 frame when Buena Vista holdover “Toy Story” rustled up $13.9 million and newcomer “Father of the Bride 2” took second place with $11.1 million.

And this year’s total was reached with fewer wide releases in the marketplace: only 11 titles unspooled in more than 500 theaters over the weekend, as compared with 15 in 1995.

Distribs on downer

That’s small consolation, however, for distributors who saw their releases drop by as much as 67% from the previous weekend.

Buena Vista’s “101 Dalmatians” slumped 58% to 13.9 million. After 12 days, the live-action remake has grossed a total of $63.7 million.

Universal’s freshman “Daylight” took the No. 2 spot, winding up with just over $10 million in its debut frame. Paramount’s third-placed “Star Trek: First Contact” also took a nosedive, dipping 63% to $6.6 million.

With seven star-driven films entering the fray between now and Christmas Day, distributors have to be nervous about whether their horses will make it into the final stretch.

Trio of heavies

Opening this Friday are Buena Vista’s “The Preachers Wife,” starring Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston; “Jerry Maguire,” starring Tom Cruise; and Tim Burton’s “Mars Attacks.” While the second weekend after Thanksgiving is also traditionally a snoozer, the combination of those high-profile titles is likely to create some B.O. heat.

The following weekend, Dec. 20, will see the debuts of 20th Century Fox’s “One Fine Day,” toplining George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer; Paramount’s bigscreen “Beavis & Butt-head”; Warner Bros.’ “My Fellow Americans”; and the expansion of Fox’s “The Crucible.” In addition, Miramax/Dimension bows its horror pic “Scream,” starring Drew Barrymore and Courteney Cox.

Christmas packages

Christmas Day wide openers include the Rysher/Paramount “Terms of Endearment” sequel “The Evening Star,” and New Line’s John Travolta starrer “Michael.”

With the exception of the Miramax-distributed Woody Allen musical “Everyone Says I Love You,” which bowed to $131,678 in its three- screen Oscar qualifying run, the bottom also dropped out of the specialized market:

Even such arthouse successes as Goldwyn’s “Big Night,” Miramax’s “Swingers” and October’s “Secrets & Lies” saw their per-screen averages dip below $2,000.

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