It looks like Christmas came early for Tim Allen and Buena Vista Pictures. "The Santa Clause 2" took the top spot at the box office over the weekend with its $29 million debut, according to studio estimates.
"The Santa Clause," released on November 11th, 1994, went on to earn a reported $144 million. The new sequel, which stars Allen as a budding Claus who must find a Mrs. or give up the job, enjoyed one of the earliest full-blown openings for a Christmas-oriented flick in history. By most accounts, Buena Vista released the film early to avoid competing with the upcoming "Harry Potter" sequel (see "Can 'Harry Potter' Stars Avoid Child Actor Doom?").
"I Spy," the weekend's other widely-released new flick, debuted at #3 with $14 million (Click for photos from "I Spy"), right behind "The Ring" which held on to the #2 spot with $18.5 for an overall three week $64.9 million take.
Last week's #1 film "Jackass: The Movie" (see " 'Jackass' Pushes Its Big-Screen Competitors Downhill In A Shopping Cart"), slid down to #4 with $13.1 million, for an overall take of $42.4 million (Click for photos from the "Jackass: The Movie" premiere).
The rest of the weekend's top 10 includes "Ghost Ship" at #5 with $6.5 million ($21.2 million, two weeks); "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" — which has now surpassed "Batman Forever," "Jurassic Park III" and "Mission: Impossible" with its box office total, inflation notwithstanding — at #6 with $5.6 million ($185.2 million, 29 weeks); Reese Witherspoon's "Sweet Home Alabama" at #7 with $4.6 million (#113.5 million, six weeks); Adam Sandler's "Punch Drunk Love," moving from a small number of theaters to a much wider release, at #8 with $4.2 million ($11 million, four weeks); "Red Dragon" at #9 with $2.6 million ($88.9 million, five weeks); and "Brown Sugar" at #10 with $1.7 million ($24.6 million, four weeks).
Rage Against the Machine video director, filmmaker and author Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," which examines guns, violence and media-perpetuated fear in America, nearly cracked the top 10 for the first time, landing at #11 with $1.6 million ($4.6 million, four weeks).
All of these films will face stiff competition when Slim Shady makes his leading man debut with the semi-autobiographical "8 Mile," which hits theaters this week.
October 2002 set a record at the box-office, thanks primarily to "Sweet Home Alabama" and the Hannibal Lecter prequel "Red Dragon." The national box office generated $690.4 million, up 21% from last year's record setting $570.6 million.
The weekend also set a new record at the video store, with the VHS and DVD release of "Spider-Man" setting a first day sales record with a combined 7 million total on Friday, knocking "Monsters, Inc." 's 4.5 million from the top spot.