‘Dracula’ capers to $ 30.5 mil

The title is “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” but with $ 30.5 million in ducats sold over its first three days, Francis Ford Coppola’s sex-and-violins extravaganza owes as much to the popularity of Anne Rice’s elegant Vampire Lestat novels– the most recent of which is coincidentally at the top of the bestseller list–as to the original source material.

Bolstered by a go-for-baroque ad campaign, “Dracula” seduced a $ 12,253 per-screen average at 2,491 sites. Now here come the superlatives, unqualified and otherwise: The $ 30,521,679 three-day gross establishes “Dracula” as the biggest non-summer weekend ever; the No. 1 Columbia Pictures opener; the second-largest non-sequel debut; the fifth-best three-day weekend gross; and the eighth-best weekend of all time. The mind reels.

“Dracula” got off to a fast start with a bloodied and unbowed $ 11,375,327 on Friday, transfusing $ 11,851,476 on Saturday and a thicker-than-water, if less than projected, $ 7,294,876 for Sunday.

Whether the Sunday decline portends the onset of anemia for the film (most of the top films underperformed on Sunday) will become clear only over the next couple of weeks. But if the zeitgeist is on its side, “Dracula” could be headed for $ 100 million territory.

Starting tomorrow, Prince Vlad the Impaler will do battle with “Malcolm X,” and on Friday, he takes on an even more formidable opponent: Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”

Among last weekend’s other premieres, “Aladdin” had the most magic–and advance ballyhoo– on its side. Its $ 196,664 SRO weekend at the El Capitan in Los Angeles and the Cinema I in New York outdid even last year’s “Beauty and the Beast” ($ 162,146 on the same two screens). In five days on two screens, “Aladdin” has rubbed $ 297,848. First wave of wide release begins Nov. 25.

Another film to watch based on its debut is October’s French entry “Tous les Matins du Monde,” which scored a solid $ 39,277 on one New York screen, one of the better foreign-film openings in some time.

On the down side, Fox’s fantasy comedy “Love Potion No. 9” was no Chanel No. 5 in opening sesh, with a malodorous $ 416,641 on 278 screens, or $ 1,499 per.

The Samuel Goldwyn Co.’s sexy thriller “Traces of Red” got the kiss-off with $ 804,336 on 387 screens, for $ 2,078 per house.

The $ 30 million boost from “Dracula” elevated the top 10 films to $ 57,950, 758, a 46% leap from the previous week’s $ 39,566,159.

Even more impressive is the 87% improvement over last year’s $ 30,968,927, when the big noise was the debut of Martin Scorsese’s “Cape Fear,” which scared up $ 10,461,757 on 924 screens.

As expected, “Dracula” somewhat defanged its runners-up, but not fatally so.

Warner Bros.’ “Passenger 57” lost 33% in altitude in its second weekend, plunging to a still-lofty $ 7,075,274 on 1,974 screens. The film’s 10-day cume is an impressive $ 21,022,807.

Warner’s other actioner and future “Passenger” double-bill companion, “Under Siege,” slipped to fourth, torpedoed by a 35% plunge to $ 2,611,777 on 1,777 screens ($ 1,470 a theater) for a fall-season-leading $ 65,133,341.

Going with the flow and holding in third is “A River Runs Through It.” Sans stars or high concept, or violence or sex, the Robert Redford-directed pastorale is sustaining nicely with a satisfactory 22% drop to $ 3,924,103 on only 1,062 screens ($ 3,695 per theater), bringing its three-week national release tally to $ 19,712,277.

Buena Vista’s “The Mighty Ducks” got a goose from Saturday night’s “Aladdin” previews and will get more help this Sunday from an encore. The paid sneak allowed the long-running hockey comedy to molt only 9% from the previous weekend and get a gander at $ 3,666,225 on 1,770 screens–$ 2,071 per–for a mega-profitable $ 40,088,122 to date.

Fox’s “The Last of the Mohicans” stayed in sixth place with a 24% drop, skinning $ 2,611,777 on 1,777 screens ($ 1,470 each). Second-best for the season , it’s amassed $ 63,117,283 to date.

Paramount’s “Jennifer 8” (it’s a big season for numerological monikers) doesn’t have time on its side, dropping 43% from its lackluster opening to $ 2, 051,865 on 967 screens –$ 2,122 per run. It’s done $ 6,911,425 in its first 10 days.

Rounding out the leaders are TriStar’s “Candyman” and BV’s “Consenting Adults ,” which each suffered 31% drops. The TriStar pick-up picked up another $ 1,742, 980 in 1,500 houses this weekend ($ 1,162 per screen) for $ 21,681,630 to date.

“Consenting” found enough adults to contribute $ 1,412,972 in 1,195 boudoirs, for $ 1,182 per. But the grand total is an underdeveloped $ 19,149,854.

In 10th place was “Pure Country,” from Warners, which plucked $ 1,236,403 from 892 houses ($ 1,386 apiece) and has amassed an off-key $ 9,467,461 so far.

MGM’s “The Lover,” which spread itself out to 24 runs and jumped 86% to $ 306 ,007, a climactic $ 12,750 per theater. Total to date is $ 831,030.

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