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''Monsters, Inc.'' will scare up big ticket sales

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Monsters, Inc.

It’s time for the ”Monsters” mash. After the relatively slow months of September and October, the ultra-busy holiday movie season kicks off this weekend with the sure-to-be-monstrous debut of Disney and Pixar’s newest computer-animated family flick, ”Monsters, Inc.,” about two funny-looking creatures (voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman) who scare kids for a living.

But just how huge will the opening be? Disney/Pixar’s last blockbuster, 1999’s ”Toy Story 2,” amassed $57.4 in its first weekend, while its most recent non-sequel, ”A Bug’s Life,” grossed $33.3 million in 1998. So ”Monsters” will likely fall in between those two. Perhaps the most important point of comparison, however, is ”Shrek,” DreamWorks’ computer-animated hit, which opened to $42.3 million in May. Disney desperately needs to top that figure if it hopes to reclaim the animation crown. My hunch is that it’ll be close. Expect ”Monsters” to scare up $40 million this weekend.

Second place will be a battle between action stars old and new. After the mild success of this summer’s ”Swordfish,” John Travolta returns — as a good guy this time — in the thriller ”Domestic Disturbance.” Travolta movies always do better when he’s playing the hero (”The General’s Daughter”) instead of the villain (”Lucky Numbers,” ”Battlefield Earth”), so ”Disturbance” should score $15 million.

Meanwhile, up-and-kicker Jet Li, who also appeared in theaters this summer with ”Kiss of the Dragon,” is back with the simply titled ”The One.” A cool premise (Li has to fight multiple copies of himself) combined with the star’s rising popularity and a massive release pattern (almost 2,900 theaters) will ensure a big opening. Fifteen million seems in order, though don’t be surprised if Jet flies by John when the dollars are counted.

Last week’s top two films will round out the top five. Kevin Spacey’s ”Touched by an Alien” drama, ”K-PAX,” should hang on tight, dropping 35-40 percent to about $10 million. But the Halloween horror flick ”Thirteen Ghosts” won’t fare nearly as well. Such disposable thrillers always plummet between 50 and 60 percent in their second weekends, which translates into a $7 million showing. The only thing scarier than the glass-house frightfest will be its final box office take.

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