‘Beowulf’ Slays Santa, Seinfeld At Box Office

'American Gangster' set to become Denzel Washington's most successful film.

The Box-Office Top Five

#1 “Beowulf” ($28.1 million)
#2 “Bee Movie” ($14.3 million)
#3 “American Gangster” ($13.2 million)
#4 “Fred Claus” ($12 million)
#5 “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium”($10 million)

Not since Mrs. Quirk’s 12th-grade English class have so many enjoyed a taste of the Anglo-Saxon, as one of the oldest epic poems in the English tradition became the newest box-office champ of 2007. Robert Zemeckis’ “Beowulf” slew the competition to arrive at first place with a beastly horde of $28.1 million — a kingly ransom any hero would be glad to be buried with. Can a high-tech, revisionist take on “The Wife of Bath” be far behind?

We wouldn’t put it past Zemeckis (who is, in fact, working on “A Christmas Carol”), a middle-aged whiz kid who hasn’t lost his populist touch, while simultaneously pushing new technological ground with films such as “Beowulf” and “The Polar Express,” both animated with futuristic motion-capture techniques and rendered using the newest advances in digital 3D. The Academy Award-winner is the second-most successful director in history, according to life-time, cumulative box-office gross. With titles including “Back to the Future,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “Forrest Gump” and “Cast Away,” Zemeckis’ movies have made nearly $2 billion — more than any other director except Steven Spielberg.

A blockbuster nearly 1,300 years in the making made short work of last week’s winner, as Jerry Seinfeld’s “Bee Movie” fell roughly 44 percent to buzz into second place with $14.3 million. Also in its third week, “American Gangster” came in third with $13.2 million, bringing the total for Ridley Scott’s latest to over $100 million. By next weekend, it will almost certainly eclipse “Remember the Titans” to become Denzel Washington’s most successful movie ever.

“Fred Claus” fell to #4 in its second week, while “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” a children’s fantasy about a magical toy store that comes to life, rounded out the top five, having earned $10 million.

Among other new releases, “Love in the Time of Cholera” (a “morbid” title, Steve Martin once jokingly wrote) could have used a little of whatever made Gabriel García Márquez’s Remedios float. Instead, the generational love story sunk to a 10th-place finish, earning just $1.9 million. Meanwhile, for Richard Kelly’s “Southland Tales,” it really was the end of the world. The apocalyptic tale earned just $117,000 in 63 theaters.

Finally, several months after MTV first reported that “Smiley Face” was going straight to DVD, the stoner comedy starring Anna Faris opened in just one theater, and earned a dismal $6,500. It was the lowest amount for any film tracked this weekend.

Upcoming Releases

Pass the cranberry sauce and say a Thanksgiving prayer for a slew of holiday releases making their way to theaters this week, including “Enchanted,” an animation/ live-action hybrid from Disney; “Hitman,” a video-game adaptation starring Timothy Olyphant; “The Mist,” the latest collaboration between master storytellers Stephen King and Frank Darabont; and “This Christmas,” a family farce starring MTV fave Chris Brown.

Check out everything we’ve got on “Beowulf,” “Bee Movie” and “American Gangster.”

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