In what portends a holiday season of superlatives, the top 10 films in the nation’s theaters grossed a record-breaking $ 72,256,479 for the pre-Thanksgiving weekend, led by the mighty Macaulay Culkin sequel “Home Alone 2 : Lost in New York,” which became the No. 1 non-summer ticket-seller ever with $ 31,126,882 in its first three days.

The follow-up to the third-largest domestic moneymaker of all time ($ 285 million for the original “Home Alone”) swooped down on the fresh blood of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” which had claimed the record just a week ago with $ 30.5 million.

The Columbia gore-and-gauze fest got 51% less bang per fang in weekend two, falling to a still-regal $ 15,021,693 million on 2,491 screens. Its 10-day total is an admirable $ 53,727,074.

By comparison, WB’s “Batman 2″ made $ 25.4 million during its second weekend this past June, down 44% from its opening weekend gross of $ 45.7 million.

In part the “Dracula” fall-off is due to the unsustainable heights the Francis Ford Coppola film achieved in its debut–industry observers don’t expect the coming weekend’s drop to be as precipitous. But the two-pronged attack by “Home Alone 2″ and Warner Bros.’ significant starter, “Malcolm X,” didn’t help matters, draining away potential victims young and old.

“Malcolm X” was alive and exuding charisma, preaching $ 9,871,125 for the weekend on 1,124 screens and $ 13,622,147 since taking the podium last Wednesday , despite a herculean running time of almost 3 1/2 hours.

The two box office freshmen and the sophomore were valedictorians at the box office, accounting for almost three of every four movie tickets sold.

The per-screen grades on each tell an even rosier story. On 2,222 screens, “Home Alone 2″ averaged $ 14,008, almost as good as its predecessor and on 1,100 -plus additional screens. “Malcolm X,” with only three shows per day–vs. five for normal two-hour movies–was industrial strength with $ 8,782 per theater. Even taking into account its steep decline, “Dracula” comfortably dug up $ 6,030 in each venue.

Led by three powerful performers, the Nov. 20-22 weekend has become the non-summer, non-holiday weekend to beat. The $ 72 million-plus total for the top 10 is 28% ahead of last year’s then-record $ 56,408,176 (when “The Addams Family” contributed $ 24,203,754) and 25% better than last week’s $ 57,950,758. That heady number could be superannuated before Christmas.

And it will likely be improved upon this coming weekend when two additional fast breaks are expected: Buena Vista’s national “Aladdin” exposure and WB’s “The Bodyguard.” Industry oracles give both films the thumbs-up as strong starters.

The all-time three-day weekend record is the June 23, 1989, period when the “Batman” opening propelled the top 10 to $ 93,294,008.

If “Aladdin” continues to compare as favorably with “Beauty and the Beast” as it has in its exclusive two-week, two-theater run, then Buena Vista has another theatrical (not to mention future video) contender on its hands.

Second weekend was off by a mere 12% from its sell-out debut, lamplighting $ 173,772, or a genie-rubbing $ 86,886 per theater. In 12 days at two sites, the film was an Arabian wonder with $ 612,078. It breaks on 1,100 screens tomorrow.

But unlike “Beauty and the Beast,””Aladdin” must vie for the kiddie’s attention with the formidable “Home Alone 2,” which has taken its place as the eighth-largest opening ever, and fifth among three-day openings. It’s Fox’s fastest moneymaker ever, beating out 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” which grossed $ 30,490,619 over the Memorial Day weekend.

Setting records is not the only way to make money. With almost $ 10 million in its opening weekend, “Malcolm X” did virtually twice the business of Oliver Stone’s “JFK,” exceeding industry expectations.

Having easily captured the expected African-American audience and the sophisticated adult audience–big-city numbers were especially strong–“Malcolm X” could make incursions into other segments of the population via blitz media coverage and a spate of good-to-excellent reviews.

Academy Award nominations appear likely, harbinger of a long run. Soothsayers already are pitting it against Columbia’s upcoming “A Few Good Men” as the leading contenders for the top Oscar prize.

It’s interesting to note that WB’s fourth-place “Passenger 57,” while still doing a notable $ 4,506,412 in its third weekend, might have been a higher grosser had it not been hobbled by the arrival of three event movies so close to its original release. With $ 27,204,016 after its third weekend, the Wesley Snipes starrer is still a good-sized hit.

“A River Runs Through It” jes’ keeps rollin’ along. Fourth weekend in national release is off 23%, less than any other wide-break film. The $ 3,006, 678 on 1,080 screens is just under $ 2,800 a theater and the film is running silently but deeply toward $ 24 million.

“Under Siege” is nowhere near through with $ 2,460,835 in 1,757 ports of call. The Steven Seagal star-maker is courting $ 70 million, making it one of Warners’ better performers for the year.

On the subject of better performers, BV’s “The Mighty Ducks” was the underduck of the fall season but it has become a contender. With more than $ 42 million so far, this low-budget surprise skated off with $ 2,096,756 over the weekend on 1,708 screens, a mighty drop of 43%. And it’s unlikely to survive “Home Alone 2″ and “Aladdin.”

Also nearing the end of its run is Fox’s “The Last of the Mohicans.” And what a run it was. A lack of big box office names and its period setting were no hindrance to this release, wisely postponed from the summer. The Michael Mann actioner was still militia-ready with $ 1,866,289 on 1,472 screens this past weekend, bringing it up to $ 65,687,150 to date.

MGM, which has been begging for a hit, may have a sexy performer on its hands if it can manage to outlast the holiday onslaught. On 29 screens over the weekend, “The Lover” captivated $ 303,491, an erotic $ 10,465 per screen and $ 1 ,270,795 to date.

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