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‘Night at the Museum’ tops box office

PG pic takes $30.8 million over its first three days

Fox’s Ben Stiller-starrer “Night at the Museum” was tops at the B.O. over the Christmas frame as of Sunday morning, with turnstiles spinning to a three-day estimate of $30.8 million.

PG-rated f/x extravaganza — about a museum with some particularly lively exhibits — played in 3,685 locations for a per engagement average of $8,358. Fox brass said that the pic’s prowess came from an unexpectedly high turnout of non-family auds.

Last weekend’s No.1 — the Sony holdover feel-good drama “The Pursuit of Happyness” — slipped into the second spot over the first three-days of the extended frame, with $15 million. Will Smith-starrer’s cume now stands at $53.2 million after two weekends at the multiplexes.

Amongst other new wide releases, Sylvester Stallone’s latest pic in the “Rocky” franchise, “Rocky Balboa,” punched up some solid numbers for MGM: Pic rallied to $12.5 million over the three days to land in third.

“Rocky’s” cume has been a scrappy $22.1 million since its release Wednesday. Pic played in 3,017 over the weekend.

Universal’s Robert DeNiro-helmed political pic “The Good Shepherd,” starring Matt Damon, meantime, came in at No. 4, with $10.0 million in its bow.

New “Rocky” pic likely bit into receipts for Warner Bros.’ gridiron drama “We Are Marshall,” which took in just $6.6 million off 2,548. Pic landed in the seventh spot. Warners also opened Clint Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima” in limited release. Pic has taken in $116,000 since its Wednesday bow.

Still set to roll out Monday are Paramount and Dreamworks’ “Dreamgirls” and MGM’s “Black Christmas.”

Stiller-starrer “Meet the Fockers” opened to $46.1 million Christmas weekend two years ago. “Night”‘s success was helped by its play in IMAX theaters: 18 of the pic’s top 20-grossing screens were large format.

Mel Gibson’s violent epic “Apocalypto” sharply fell 62.3% and out of the top 10 altogether after scoring a surprise No. 1 bow two weeks ago. Pic has cumed $34.7 million to date and has taken in just over $3 million during the Christmas frame so far.

In other holdovers, Paramount’s G-rated “Charlotte’s Web” stuck another $8 million in its stocking, raising its cume to $26.8 million after two weekends. Biz dropped 30%.

Fox’s fantasy pic “Eragon” flapped into sixth place, taking in $7.15 million off 3,030. Big-screen lit adaptation has so far grossed $37.6 million. Pic dipped a steep 68% as its core already came out for its opening last frame.

Warner’s “Happy Feet” is still dancing in the top ten. Pic has cumed $159.1 million in six weeks of release and took in $5.1 million over the first three days of the Christmas frame.

Sony’s “The Holiday” was also still in the charts, holding on to ninth place and dipping a slight 38% as female auds came out to find the Nancy Meyers film. Pic brought in another $5 million, and has taken in $35 million after three frames.

New Line’s “The Nativity Story” got a boost from the holiday: Pic dropped 750 of its locations, down to 1,824, but saw no dip in biz from last weekend. “Story” birthed another $4.6 million to raise its cume to $31.3 million after a month in theaters.

In the specialty sector, Miramax opened its “Venus” in three locations on Thursday and grabbed $42,000. Pic, starring Peter O’Toole,” scored a $14,000 per screen average.

Also in limited release was Sony Classics’ The Curse of the Golden Flower” which bowed in 60 engagements. “Flower” grew a per playdate average of $8,152, and a cume of $503,036 after a Thursday opening.