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Tom Cruise should finish at No. 1

Expect his psychological thriller, ”Vanilla Sky,” to outdraw George Clooney’s ”Ocean’s Eleven”

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Vanilla Sky

Tom Cruise’s latest mission: topping the box office with a tough sell. Cruise’s R-rated ”Vanilla Sky,” about a New York playboy stalked by his casual girlfriend (Cameron Diaz) while getting to know another woman (Penélope Cruz) who could turn out to be the one of his dreams, is a love-it-or-hate-it film, filled with plot twists that will have some audience members cheering and others scratching their heads. But a large first weekend is certainly in order, considering that Cruise, who is still one of the biggest stars today, has been everywhere promoting the movie, his first since ”Eyes Wide Shut” a year and a half ago.

Paramount has landed the thriller on 2,742 screens, about 200 more than ”Jerry Maguire” opened on this very weekend five years ago. That romance debuted with $17.1 million, but expect ”Vanilla Sky” to start with a bigger bang. Though word of mouth will be mixed, the film should still gross about $28 million this weekend to take the No. 1 spot.

Close behind will be George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s casino robbery comedy ”Ocean’s Eleven,” which premiered last weekend with a record-breaking $38.1 million. Audience response to the film has mostly been positive, so a respectable 40 percent drop is in order, leading to a strong $23 million haul for second place.

The week’s other big new entry, the spoof ”Not Another Teen Movie,” will likely snag the No. 3 slot. Even though the silly-funny genre seems to be played out (witness ”Scary Movie 2” and ”Freddy Got Fingered”), this comedy fills a laugh-riot void right now and benefits from an aggressive advertising campaign. This will be the film to sneak in to this weekend for a lot of kids, to the tune of $17 million.

In its fifth weekend, ”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” will break the $250 million mark, falling about 35 percent to $10 million. And fighting it out for fifth place will be the Disney blockbuster ”Monsters, Inc.” and the war drama ”Behind Enemy Lines.” We’ll see if the furry guys can outsmart the soldiers.

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