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Going ape over holiday flicks

Hollywood pins its hopes on November, December openings

Hollywood has only one thing on its holiday wish list this year — an end to the monthslong box-office slump that has seen movie-ticket receipts fall to the lowest levels since . . . well, since the 20th century.

The studios are doing everything they can to ensure an upswing — including a film by "Lord of the Rings" Oscar-winner Peter Jackson.

Of course, this time Jackson isn't telling a tale of Hobbits, elves and orcs. Instead, his big star is a giant gorilla named "King Kong."

Jackson's remake of the 1933 classic (and its 1976 remake) is expected to be the blockbuster of the 2005 holiday movie season.

Not that there aren't other fantasy heavyweights for competition — including wizard-in-training Harry Potter, who returns (today) for his fourth fantasy adventure, "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," and a live-action version of C.S. Lewis' beloved "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

But the holiday-movie season, which goes through the end of the year (January and February openings will be covered in our early 2006 preview) isn't just about big-screen fantasies. Also on hand are scores of:

COMEDIES, among which are "Casanova" (starring Heath Ledger as the legendary lothario), "Fun With Dick and Jane" (a remake with Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni) and "Ice Harvest" (which reteams John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton).

DRAMAS, led by the already controversial gay-cowboy tale "Brokeback Mountain," along with an adaptation of the best seller "Memoirs of a Geisha" and the epic adventure "The New World."

FAMILY-FRIENDLY movies, including the sequel "Cheaper by the Dozen 2," "Yours, Mine and Ours."

THRILLERS, with Charlize Theron playing the cartoon anti-hero "Aeon Flux" and an all-star cast (George Clooney, Matt Damon) in "Syriana."

MUSICALS, a comeback for the genre, with the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line," and film adaptations of the Broadway smashes "Rent" and "The Producers" — both of which feature most of the original stage casts.