Cop drama tops 'Bee Movie'

In a battle between bees and gangsters at the Friday box office, Universal-Imagine’s “American Gangster” won out among moviegoers.

The Russell Crowe-Denzel Washington R-rated topliner gunned down $16 million at 3,054 theaters – the highest opening day for both actors respectively at the domestic box office and the second best opening day for a November drama.

According to Rentrak, Crowe’s previous top opening day title was “Gladiator” which reaped $11 million on May 5, 2000, while Washington’s best first Friday was for “Inside Man” which grossed $9.4 million on March 24, 2006.

U-Imagine’s Eminem headliner “8 Mile,” which unspooled during the second frame of November 2002, holds the top opening day for a November drama at $19.6 million and a 3-day take of $51.2 million.

Yesterday’s haul for “Gangster” also reps the third best opening day for a fall R-rated release.

Flying in second, DreamWorks Animation’s “Bee Movie” distributed by Paramount, collected $10.2 million from 3,928 hives. Among previous November animated fare, the opening day figure for the Jerry Seinfeld outing ranks behind the first day B.O. of Disney’s 2005 toon “Chicken Little” which generated $10.6 million and went on to gross $40 million for its opening weekend. The month’s top first Friday for a feature toon still belongs to Pixar’s “The Incredibles” which grossed $20.5 million in 2004.

While “Gangster” is currently grossing ahead of “Bee” for the top spot at the weekend box office, Saturday and Sunday matinees could ultimately work in favor for the DreamWorks animated pic.

Coming in third yesterday was last weekend’s champion “Saw IV” with $3.7 million from 3,183 locales, repping a 75% drop from last Friday and a current cume of $43.7 million. Pic’s Friday-to-Friday decline is steeper than that registered by its previous chapter “Saw III” which fell 64% in its second Friday receipts.

In fourth place, Disney’s “Dan in Real Life” grossed $2.6 million on 1,925; down 38% for a current cume of $17.4 million.

Sony’s “30 Days of Night” scared up $1.2 million for fifth place on Friday in 2,627 hardtops; down 48% from a week ago, and a current cume of $31.4 million.

Friday’s third wide bow, New Line’s John Cusack drama “Martian Child” abducted $1.1 million off 2,020 engagements, falling outside of yesterday’s top five B.O. rankers.

Among specialty fare this weekend, ThinkFilm’s second weekend expansion of “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead” surged four fold from its first Friday, collecting $95,000 off 43 engagements and a gross to date of $209,000.

Warner Independent’s doc “Darfur Now” collected a mere $7,000 in its opening day from three theaters in New York and Los Angeles.

MGM-Sidney Kimmel’s “Lars and the Real Girl” touted a modest dip in its fourth Friday of 17%, grossing $234,000 from 321 playdates and a current cume of $1.9 million.

Fox Searchlight’s “The Darjeeling Limited” wound up being Friday’s highest grosser for a studio classic label title in under 800 runs, drinking up $381,000 from 615 for a current cume in its sixth frame of $7.2 million. In its seventh Friday, Par Vantage’s “Into the Wild” was right behind with $376,000 from 660 and a current haul of $10 million.

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