‘Beowulf’ wins Friday box office

Paramount feature captures $9.7 million

Paramount’s epic “Beowulf” conquered Friday moviegoers, capturing $9.7 million from 3,153 theaters.

Pic’s opening day reps the second best for director Robert Zemeckis behind “Cast Away,” which bowed to $11 million in 2000.

The PG-13 motion-capture animated pic, produced by Shangri-La Entertainment and distributed overseas by Warner Bros., is touted as the widest digital 3-D domestic release ever. Of those theaters showing “Beowulf,” 740 are 3-D screens, while the rest are 2-D.

“Monster House,” Zemeckis’ previous motion-capture animated production, garnered $2.6 million from 163 3-D digital houses during its opening July 2006 weekend. Given “Beowulf’s” wide accessibility at 3-D theaters, it should have no problem outstripping that figure. The PG-rated “Monster” boasted an opening day of $7.4 million and a 3-day of $22.2 million off 3,553 engagements.

“Beowulf” is expected to stay ahead of the pack at the weekend B.O.; however, it’s a tight race among those three holdovers ranking behind it.

Universal’s “American Gangster” bullied Par-DreamWorks’ “Bee Movie” out of second place Friday with $3.9 million off 3,110 locales, down 46% from a week ago. Having grossed $91.6 million to date in its third frame, “Gangster” continues to pace ahead of last year’s “The Departed” by 36%, autumn’s highest grossing R-rated crime drama of all-time ($132.4 million). The Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe topliner looks to hit the century mark by tomorrow.

In third, “Bee Movie” harvested $3.4 million from 3,984 theaters, down 45%. Pic’s cume to date stands at $83 million.

Last weekend’s Warner Bros.’ holiday comedy “Fred Claus” proved to be slightly more popular among families than Friday’s new G-rated entry “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium.” Landing in fourth, “Claus” collected $3.3 million from 3,603 chimneys, repping a 39% decline from a week ago, and an eight day cume of $27 million. Fox-Walden’s “Magorium” took fifth with $2.6 million from 3,164 hardtops.

Arthouse crowds traveled to the 148 theaters playing “No Country for Old Men” yesterday, propelling the Joel and Ethan Coen film into seventh place with $892,000, up 153% from last Friday, and a per engagement of $6,030. In its first eight days, “Old Men” has minted $2.7 million.

Friday’s other wide entry, New Line’s “Love in the Time of Cholera” rested in tenth with $635,000 from 852 playdates.

The battle among Bollywood musicals in their second Friday resulted in Eros’ “Om Shanti Om” crooning $222,000 from 117 theaters over Sony’s “Saawariya” which only peeped $37,000 from 85 – a 75% drop from its opening day. To date, “Om Shanti Om” has made $2.4 million while “Saawariya” has grossed close to $700,000.

Par Vantage’s “Margot at the Wedding” proved to be a worthy engagement for Gotham auds, boasting the day’s highest theater average of $11,373 from two theaters or $22,746.

Few turned up to soak in Richard Kelly’s “Southland Tales” which drew a $595 theater average or $37,485 from 63 locales.

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