The Santa Clause 2: Joseph Lederer
Dave Karger
November 01, 2002 AT 05:00 AM EST

Happy holiday season! Two super-wide releases kick off one of the biggest moviegoing periods of the year. Now the question is, will audiences turn out to share some Yuletide cheer?

Tim Allen returns with ”The Santa Clause 2,” the sequel to the 1994 family comedy that grossed almost $145 million. Because of a fairly recognizable franchise and the Disney name, the film should be able to top the $19.3 million opening weekend of the first ”Clause.” But Allen might simply have inflation to thank for that. With his sitcom ”Home Improvement” off the prime-time schedule for so long, Allen isn’t the megastar he once was, and his last two films, ”Big Trouble” and ”Joe Somebody,” both debuted with less than $4 million. Still, families looking for something to see should provide ”The Santa Clause 2” with a $20 million debut.

The other new wide release is the Eddie Murphy/Owen Wilson action comedy ”I Spy,” which really has nothing to do with the Bill Cosby TV series of the same name. Instead, TV ads have sold the film as a standard buddy comedy, and an unoriginal one at that. Murphy could use a hit after his disastrous ”The Adventures of Pluto Nash” this summer. And ”I Spy” will certainly open with more than $2 million. But young male fans are probably saving their quarters for next week’s opening of Eminem’s ”8 Mile.” In all, ”I Spy” could manage an $18 million opening.

Last week’s top two films will compete for the third slot. ”Jackass the Movie,” which debuted at No. 1, should see its $22.8 million opening tally sliced in half, while the horror thriller ”The Ring” should slip about 40 percent, meaning both films will end up with about $11 million for the weekend. Fifth place will likely be a battle between the disappointing ”Ghost Ship” and the crowd-pleasing ”My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which will both earn about $5 million. One thing’s for sure: The biggest action will take place next weekend when music chart-topper Eminem works his magic on the box office as well.

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