Vampire film '30 Days' wins box office bloodbath

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LOS ANGELES, Oct 21 (Reuters) The new vampire thriller ''30 Days of Night'' took a commanding early lead at the North American box office, while the serious dramas ''Gone Baby Gone,'' ''Rendition'' and ''Things We Lost in the Fire'' were on track for disastrous debuts.

''30 Days of Night,'' which revolves around a vampire invasion of an Alaskan town shrouded in 24-hour darkness, earned about 6.25 million dollars on its first day of business Friday, according to data issued on Saturday by box office tracking firm Box Office Mojo (http://www.boxofficemojo.com).

The film's distributor, Columbia Pictures, predicted the film would end up with a three-day tally of about 15 million dollars, in line with industry forecasts before it opened. Columbia is a unit of Sony Corp.

Incumbent champ, ''Why Did I Get Married?'' was second on Friday with about 3.4 million dollars. Based on its trajectory last weekend, writer/director/actor Tyler Perry's romantic comedy-drama should tally about 9.5 million dollars in its second round. The film was released by Lionsgate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. Studio estimates for the weekend will be issued today morning, followed by final data tomorrow.

As for the other new releases, Box Office Mojo estimated Miramax Films' crime thriller ''Gone Baby Gone'' opened at No 6 with 1.9 million dollars, New Line Cinema's suspense drama ''Rendition'' at No 9 with 1.4 million dollars, and Paramount-DreamWorks' domestic tragedy ''Things We Lost in the Fire'' at No 15 with 505,000 dollars.

Fox sports movie spoof ''The Comebacks'' beat them all, coming in at No 5 with 2.1 million dollars, although it played on more screens.

Industry pundits had expected most of the five new releases to reach 10 million dollars for the weekend -- a figure that only ''30 Days of Night'' is likely to reach.

But a DreamWorks spokesman said the studio had been hoping only for a 3 million dollars to 4 million dollars weekend for ''Things We Lost in the Fire.'' Based on Friday's haul, he expected the Benicio Del Toro-Halle Berry vehicle would come in at 1.6 million dollars to 1.7 million dollars. While obviously a disappointment, he noted that it cost a modest million to make, and that the Oscar-winning stars got great reviews.

In the end, it seemed moviegoers had a limited appetite for the onslaught of serious dramas: Del Toro plays a heroin addict and Berry a newly widowed mother, while ''Gone Baby Gone'' centers on kidnapped children, and ''Rendition'' on terrorism.

''Gone Baby Gone'' marks the feature-directing debut of Ben Affleck, who cast his younger brother Casey in the lead role as a Boston private detective. ''Rendition'' stars Reese Witherspoon as a woman whose husband is kidnapped and tortured by the CIA.

Miramax is a unit of Walt Disney Co . New Line is a unit of Time Warner Inc . DreamWorks and Paramount are units of Viacom Inc . Fox is a unit of News Corp .

Reuters SYU VP0850

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