Dis serves up beauty and the feast

'Enchanted' leaves only scraps for holiday openers, holdovers

Disney tends to own the long Thanksgiving boxoffice weekend, and this year should be no different.

The studio bows its mostly live-action romancer "Enchanted" today in more than 3,500 theaters, and prerelease tracking surveys show good title awareness and must-see interest.

Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said the Thanksgiving frame debut for "Enchanted" reflects executives' belief that the film will play broadly.

"We've done that with so many of our very commercial and broadly appealing films, and this is definitely in that vein," Viane said.

"Enchanted" begins with a 10-minute animated segment that morphs into live action for the balance of the film, in which an animated princess is thrust into real life. Music-filled and family-oriented, "Enchanted" is directed by Kevin Lima ("102 Dalmatians"), with Amy Adams ("Junebug") and James Marsden ("X-Men: The Last Stand") in lead roles.

Early reviews have been promising, and the film's five-day boxoffice feast is expected to reach at least $35 million.

With Disney wielding such a firm grip on the Turkey Day drumstick, four additional wide openers will slug it out for other positions around the holiday's bountiful boxoffice table. Miramax also is expanding the Coen brothers' "No Country for Old Men" to about 1,000 theaters today, so things could start feeling like a messy food fight.

Good luck to holdovers from the previous frame, such as Paramount's "Beowulf" and Fox Walden's "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium," in picking up sizable table scraps.

But "Beowulf" at least offers the novelty of 3-D projection in one-fifth of its locations. So something on the order of a 50% hold from opening grosses should be possible during its second weekend, and that will be padded by heftier-than-usual weekday grosses thanks to student and workplace holidays.

"Magorium" seems less well positioned, relying mostly on family business and facing the unappetizing prospect of going up against "Enchanted" through the holiday session. DreamWorks/Paramount's animated comedy "Bee Movie" also continues to play strongly, offering further competition for family admissions.

Among the new entrants, it appears at first blush that Fox's video game adaptation "Hitman" might overlap a bit with the prospective audience for MGM/ Dimension's Stephen King adaptation "The Mist." But Fox's Timothy Olyphant-starring actioner should skew much younger than the Lion's Frank Darabont-helmed horror film.

"Hitman," set for about 2,300 engagements, should well surpass $20 million during the five-day frame. And "Mist," playing in 2,500 venues, likely will follow close behind.

Then there's Sony/Screen Gems' "This Christmas," whose black cast is expected to draw well in urban markets. Operating from that sturdy base, "Christmas" could gross into the high-teen millions during the long frame.

Warner Bros.' Keri Russell-Jonathan Rhys Meyers starrer "August Rush" should gross at least double-digit millions from about 2,200 runs. A family fantasy, "Rush" could get squeezed by other films targeting a similar audience.

Meanwhile, anxious industryites hope that a boxoffice feast during the Thanksgiving frame can demonstrate that the year will close strongly and the recently dour marketplace was simply a fall phenomenon.

The weekend will compare with last year's $162.1 million Thanksgiving frame topped by Disney's $20.6 million debut of the time-travel actioner "Deja Vu."
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