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Holiday stuffed with star vehicles

Pix set to 'Krank' up holiday B.O.

Capping off a month crammed with family-friendly films, Revolution and Sony open the latest Tim Allen yuletide tale, “Christmas With the Kranks,” in 3,119 theaters today and 3,393 by Friday when Canadian dates open.

Offering an adult alternative, Warner Bros. bows Oliver Stone’s R-rated historical epic “Alexander” in 2,445 venues.

“Kranks” arrives in megaplexes with Disney and Pixar’s “The Incredibles” still a force in the market, along with Paramount’s “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie,” Warners’ “The Polar Express” and Disney’s “National Treasure,” which means families will have a bevy of movies to choose from after Thanksgiving dinner.

While competish among the films will be intense, Revolution partner Tom Sherak said heavy moviegoing among family auds could be a boon to “Kranks.”

“I don’t remember ever seeing a time period between the first of the month through the end of the month where there have been so many family movies,” he said, “and so many family movies doing so well.”

He added, “I believe movies are contagious. If you give the public something they want to see, they then want to see more of it.”

“Kranks” will mark the third Christmas pic for Allen, following two “Santa Clause” movies. Both of those, however, opened in early November, the last one bowing on Nov. 1 with $29 million and grossing $139 million over its run.

“Tim Allen fits in this time period,” said Sony distrib prexy Rory Bruer, who said his expectations for the film were buoyed by the good aud reactions from sneaks last week.

“Alexander,” starring Colin Farrell, joins “Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason” as the only widely released R-rated films in the marketplace right now.

Historical epics have had a bit of a tough time domestically this year (though they’ve done well internationally). “Troy” opened last May with $46.9 million, while “King Arthur” did just $15.2 million in its first frame. “Alexander” is expected to come in somewhere between the two.

On the limited front, Warner Independent opens its French wartime romancer “A Very Long Engagement” on four screens, two each in Gotham and Los Angeles.

WIP distrib head Steven Friedlander said the follow-up from “Amelie” helmer Jean-Pierre Jeunet and star Audrey Tautou will have to find an audience different from that drawn to the earlier French pic. “Amelie” cumed $33 million over its long run starting in November 2001.

While set around a love story, “Engagement” includes several graphic scenes of battle violence that may turn off the date crowd.

“It’s been made very clear if you’ve read any of the reviews that this isn’t a sequel to ‘Amelie,’ ” Friedlander said. “It’s a very powerful and realistic look at war and a sweeping love story.”

Many specialty distribs like to widen their fall pics during Thanksgiving week.

As recently as this weekend, Miramax had planned to take “Finding Neverland,” which was in 57 theaters last weekend, to a national release pattern of around 800 screens this Wednesday.

But on Monday, the distrib alerted exhibs that it was scaling those plans back and now will expand the Johnny Depp pic to 514 screens, catching some exhibs who were expecting prints off-guard.

A company spokesman said of the last-minute changes, “We informed the exhibitors in advance and they should have been aware of the change.”

Of the shift in release strategy on “Neverland,” the spokesman said, “We’re following a typical Miramax approach of nurturing the film and building on its early success and strong word of mouth.”

Miramax also opens its doc “Paper Clips” this weekend on five screens in Gotham, L.A. and Washington, D.C.

Also expanding this week are Fox Searchlight’s “Kinsey,” which will move to 188 in its third week, up 152, as well as the distrib’s “Sideways,” which gets a boost to 497 screens, up 218.

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