The Santa Clause 2: Joseph Lederer
November 01, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

So what if Halloween was just a few days ago? Thanks to ”The Santa Clause 2,” it felt like Christmastime at movie theaters this weekend, as Tim Allen’s family-film sequel premiered with $29 million, according to studio estimates.

”Santa” was not a sure-thing No. 1 opener, coming a full eight years after the first ”Santa Clause” movie and years since Allen’s ”Home Improvement” was a prime-time hit. But thanks to the Disney name and a lack of current family-friendly films, ”Clause 2” not only beat the $19.3 debut of the first ”Santa Clause,” but it also topped the box office TOTALS of Allen’s last two movies, ”Joe Somebody” ($22.8 million) and ”Big Trouble” ($7.1 million).

Holding beautifully in second place was the Naomi Watts horror flick ”The Ring,” which added 174 theaters and thrilled enough post-Halloween fans to equal its $18.5 million take from last weekend. Its three-week total is now an impressive $64.9 million. At this rate it should have no trouble breaking $100 million.

The news wasn’t so good for ”I Spy.” The action comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson could only manage a $14 million debut despite opening in more than 3,000 theaters. Audiences simply weren’t drawn in by the film’s aimless, unfunny TV ads. While not a ”Pluto Nash”-size disaster, ”Spy” will certainly not measure up to the hits of Murphy’s recent (”The Nutty Professor”) and not-so-recent (”Beverly Hills Cop”) past.

Placing fourth in its second weekend was ”Jackass the Movie,” which fell a predictable 43 percent from last week to gross another $13.1 million, bringing its 10-day total to a strong $42.5 million. And last week’s disappointing debut ”Ghost Ship” also slipped 43 percent to $6.6 million; its total is only $21.3 million. Just below the top five was ”My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” whose $5.6 million take brought its total to $185.2 million, making it the highest-grossing film ever not to claim the No. 1 box office slot. (The record was held by 1990’s ”Dances With Wolves,” which grossed $184.2 million.) So it might not be the most coveted box office record out there, but it’s a record nonetheless. Opa!

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