Drama tops 'Lions,' 'Claus' with $7.2 million

Universal-Imagine’s “American Gangster” bumped off the competition in its second Friday, looting $7.2 million from 3,059 theaters, repping a 54% drop.

To date, the Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe topliner has collected $63.6 million and is currently grossing ahead of both actors’ respective top titles at the domestic box office: “Gangster” is pacing a boffo 97% ahead of Washington’s “Remember the Titans” through its first eight days (final B.O. $116 million) and 13% ahead of Crowe’s 2000 summer hit “Gladiator” (final B.O. $188 million) over the same frame.

DreamWorks Animation’s “Bee Movie” continued to buzz in second place yesterday, collecting $6.3 million from 3,944 hives, down a respectable 39%, bringing its eight-day cume to $52.5 million.

While “Gangster” outstripped “Bee” for the top spot at the box office last weekend, the question remains today whether “Bee’s” moppet matinees will generate more coin than “Gangster’s” Saturday night couples.

Warner Bros.’ PG-rated Christmas comedy “Fred Claus” about Santa’s derelict brother, placed third Friday, bagging $5.2 million from 3,603 sleighs. Pic’s haul is in sync with the $5.3 million opening day of Disney’s G-rated “The Santa Claus 3: The Escape Claus” which wound up bowing to $19.5 million last November.

“Lions for Lambs,” the first title under Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner’s reinvented United Artists label, placed fourth with a tame $2.2 million from 2,215 playdates, making it Robert Redford’s third best opening day as a helmer behind 1998’s “The Horse Whisperer” ($4.4 million) and 2000’s “The Legend of Bagger Vance” ($3.9 million) according to Rentrak.

In fifth, Disney’s “Dan in Real Life” romanced $1.8 million off 1,941, repping a 29% decline from last Friday and a cume to date of $26.6 million.

Among Friday’s frosh horror fare, Summit’s “P2” parked in ninth with $661,000 from 2,131 lots, while After Dark’s “Horrorfest 2” stunned $131,000 from gore aficionados in 323 theaters.

Ethan and Joel Coen’s “No Country for Old Men” was a prime destination for arthouse moviegoers, raking in $352,000 from 28 engagements – the highest limited opening day for a Coen Brothers film in under 1,000 runs, besting “Fargo’s” first day coin of $189,000 from 36 theaters in March 1996.

Friday’s Bollywood entries also banked some solid rupees with Eros Entertainment’s ‘70s Hindi homage “Om Shanti Om” entertaining $386,000 off 114 venues and Sony’s first Indian tuner “Saawariya” grossing $139,000 from 85 theaters.

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