Disney's The Santa Clause 2 brought some advance Yuletide magic to the North American box office over the weekend with a number one $29m opening, according to studio estimates released today (Nov 3). The debut was more than double that grossed by Columbia's action-comedy opener I Spy, which disappointed with a $14m third place opening. Overall the top 12 pictures combined for $103.1m, down 22% on the same period last year when Disney's Monsters Inc opened on $62.6m.

In The Santa Clause 2, Tim Allen reprises his role as Scott Calvin, the popular replacement for the deceased Santa who has to deal with a marriage deadline that threatens to rob him of his tenure. Directed by Michael Lembeck, the sequel to the 1994 original divided the critics and averaged $8,656 from 3,350 venues. While the original was released two weeks before Thanksgiving, The Santa Clause 2 was brought forward this year so as not to clash with the Nov 15 release of Warner Bros' Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets. I Spy, a loose remake of the 1960s TV series, follows the buddy-movie formula and pairs Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson as unlikely partners who must foil the plans of an arms dealer. The picture drew poor reviews and continues a bad run of form for Murphy, whose Warner Bros comedy The Adventures Of Pluto Nash bombed earlier this year and made a pitiful $4.4m. Betty Thomas directed I Spy, which co-stars Famke Janssen and Malcolm McDowell and averaged $4,399 from 3,182 venues.

DreamWorks SKG's The Ring held firm in second place with $18.5m for an impressive $64.9m running score after three weeks, while Jackass: The Movie fell three to fourth on $13.1 million for a $42.5m cumulative score. IFC's My Big Fat Greek Wedding fell one place to sixth on $5.6m for a $185.2m total in its 29th week and looks increasingly likely to become the fifth picture to pass $200m this year. Artisan's Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie dropped out of the top 10 from eighth to 12th but did more good business with $1.5m haul for a $21.6m cumulative score in its fifth week. It averaged $935 from 1,604 venues.

Next weekend's releases include Universal's drama 8 Mile starring the rapper Eminem and directed by Curtis Hanson; the Warner Bros thriller Femme Fatale starring Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and directed by Brian De Palma, and Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven for Focus Features, the 1950s suburban American drama starring Julianne Moore.

Estimated Top Ten US November 1-3, 2002

Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) The Santa Clause 2 (Buena Vista) BVI $29m --

2 (2) The Ring (DreamWorks) UIP $18.5m $64.9m

3 (-) I Spy (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $14m --

4 (1) Jackass: The Movie (Paramount) UIP $13.1m $42.49m

5 (3) Ghost Ship (Warner Bros) Warner Bros $6.57m $21.27m

6 (5) My Big Fat Greek Wedding (IFC Films) Vortex Pictures $5.62m $185.24m

7 (4) Sweet Home Alabama (Buena Vista) BVI $4.6m $113.5m

8 (7) Punch-Drunk Love (Columbia) Columbia TriStar $4.2m $11.06m

9 (6) Red Dragon (Universal) UIP $2.67m $88.98m

10 (10) Brown Sugar (Fox Searchlight) Fox $1.7m $24.62m