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Hot ‘Pursuit’ at box office

'Happyness' marks Smith's 10th top bow

Holiday auds were in the mood for father-and-son bonding as Sony’s “The Pursuit of Happyness,” with Will Smith starring opposite his son, warmed hearts and landed atop the domestic B.O. over the weekend with a $27 million bow.

Pic’s per-engagement average was a robust $9,467 from 2,852 over a pre-holiday frame in which it can be tough for non-tentpole pics to woo auds away from holiday preparations. No. 1 bow was Smith’s 10th, and pic also marked a solid English-lingo debut for Italo helmer Gabriele Muccino.

Last weekend’s surprise No. 1, Mel Gibson’s “Apocalypto,” dropped nearly 50% in its second frame into sixth place.

Subtitled pic added $7.7 million to its coffers to bring its cume to $27.9 million. Pic is playing in almost 2,500 engagements and posted an average of $3,133 per.

Fox’s PG-rated “Eragon” took the second spot on the charts, with $23.4 million off 3,020 for a per-screen average of $7,765. Pic, based on the fantasy-lit phenom, played somewhat better with young males, but also brought in a young female demo.

Frame’s other wide opener, Paramount’s G-rated reinvention of “Charlotte’s Web” — which mixed live-action with CG f/x — landed in third with $12 million. Studio said it’s hoping to mirror the release of “Stuart Little,” which opened slowly in the same frame in 1999 with $15 million, but wound up with $140 million by April as families discovered it. Both “Stuart” and “Charlotte” are based on books by E.B. White.

While Sony had a No. 1 with “Happyness,” its romantic comedy “The Holiday” — starring Cameron Diaz and Jude Law — fell to No. 5 in its second frame, taking in $8.2 million off 2,614. Pic’s cume after two frames now stands at $25.3 million.Warner Bros.’ “Happy Feet” continued to play swimmingly. CG-animated penguin pic added $8.5 million off 3,335 to bring its domestic cume to just under $150 million. It was in fourth place for the weekend.

Studio’s very different project, political actioner “Blood Diamond,” dropped a slight 28% in its second weekend in theaters.

Pic took in $6.2 million off 1,910. Leonardo DiCaprio starrer has cumed $18.3 million, and Warners is hoping biz will pick up with awards nominations.

Other holdovers in the top 10 included Sony’s latest James Bond pic, “Casino Royale,” which crossed the $137.5 million mark in its fifth frame.

New Line’s “The Nativity Story” found a ninth-place berth. Pic has taken in just over $23 million after three frames, having played to $4.7 for the weekend.

Warners also had its kid pic “Unaccompanied Minors” playing in 2,775 locations. Pic got lost in the shuffle with so much family fare flowing over the frame: It has taken in $10.2 million after two frames.

Par also released DreamWorks’ bigscreen musical “Dreamgirls” in an unusual “roadshow” engagement. Pic played in just three theaters — in Gotham, Los Angeles and San Francisco — to $360,000 for 21 shows.

For $25, ticket holders got reserved seats and a special program. Pic sold out all of its shows at the sites for a per-screen average of $120,000.

Pic, from helmer Bill Condon, will widen out on Christmas to about 800 engagements.

Biz overall was off markedly compared with last year, when Universal’s 800-pound gorilla “King Kong” roamed the same frame along with the first pic in Disney’s “Narnia” franchise.

As a result, top 10 pics from a year ago combined for a potent $119.5 million as opposed to $107.2 million for the latest frame. But the combined perfs of “Happyness,” “Eragon” and “Charlotte’s Web” were encouraging.

And with “Happyness” — along with “Casino” and “Holiday” — Sony broke the record for domestic B.O. in a single year, hitting the $1.57 billion mark.

Looking ahead, Warner’s holiday sked gets even busier next frame when it rolls out football drama “We Are Marshall,” playing against MGM’s boxing sequel “Rocky Balboa.” Along with “Marshall,” and the “Dreamgirls” expansion, other new openers entering the fray in time for Christmas include Universal’s “The Good Shepherd” and Fox’s “Night at the Museum.”