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Will Adam Sandler score a box-office hit?

Will Adam Sandler score a box-office hit? His ”Mr. Deeds” should be the weekend’s No. 1 film, but not even costar Winona Ryder can assure it a $40 million opening

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Adam Sandler, Mr. Deeds
Mr. Deeds: Sony Pictures

Will ”Mr. Deeds” be more of ”Big Daddy” or a ”Little Nicky”? That’s the question, as Adam Sandler’s latest comedy hits theaters this weekend.

For his first film in more than a year and a half, the once-smokin’ comedian (in 1998 and 1999, ”The Waterboy” and ”Big Daddy” averaged $40 million openings) saw his stock fall dramatically with the disastrous performance of his hellbound ”Little Nicky,” which managed only a $16.1 debut and a $39.5 million total take.

Now he’s back with ”Mr. Deeds,” a remake of the 1936 Frank Capra drama ”Mr. Deeds Goes to Town.” In ”Deeds,” Sandler plays an average Joe who inherits $40 billion. But it’s probably better known as ”the movie with Winona Ryder,” thanks to her frequent court appearances lately. Will ”Deeds” restore Sandler to $40 million-man status? Probably not. But thanks to its Earth-bound plot, it’s likely to perform better than ”Nicky.” Look for a solid $32 opening and a No. 1 finish.

After last week’s super-close battle for No. 1 between ”Minority Report” and ”Lilo & Stitch,” the kiddie flick will outperform the star vehicle. Since family films usually see smaller drops, ”Stitch,” which received a higher CinemaScore grade from audiences and has been the top film during the week so far, should fall about 35 percent to $23 million, while ”Minority” could see a 40 percent decline to about $21 million.

The week’s other new entry, ”Hey Arnold! The Movie,” is likely to snag the fourth slot. A feature-length version of the Nickelodeon cartoon about the kid whose head looks like a football, ”Arnold” may be a big kiddie draw, but he’s no Rugrat. So ”Arnold’s” opening weekend will fall short of the $20-plus million hauls of the two ”Rugrats” films. Instead, he’ll manage a debut in the $14 million range.

And rounding out the top five will be ”Scooby-Doo” in what is shaping up to be quite the family-friendly weekend. After ”Scooby’s” 55 percent decline last week, look for another 50 percent drop to $12 million. Ruh-roh!