With Saturday’s figures now in, one will argue with the concept of Fred Claus being a major flop, especially in relation to cost. The total weekend projection for the Warner Bros. release has been lowered to $17,781,000, or about $2 million less than Friday’s projection. A popular family film usually gets a bump of about 50% on Saturday, but Claus only went up about 20%. It’ll be a push to make $50 million on this thing, which won’t begin to match the combined production and marketing costs. Plus it stannds a good chance of suffering a drop of over 50% next weekend (11.16) with Mr. Magorium’s Magic Emporium expected to snag a large piece of the family trade.

The problem is Claus star Vince Vaughn, whom the family audience apparently sees as an R-rated motor-mouth (the Wedding Crashers persona) and therefore not kid-friendly, even if he’s portrayed as a grinning 8 year-old riding around on a kid’s tricycle in the one-sheet. WB marketers tried but couldn’t sell Claus to big enough portion of the family audience. A guy told me he went to see it yesterday and saw a few parents and kids but mostly twentysomethings. Yesterday’s haul was $7,600,000, which was up about 20% from Friday.

Oh, and the per-screen average for No Country for Old Men is $41,000, which translates to a total weekend tally of $1,151,000. A sensational opening, to say the least. Of course, the Coen Brothers film is playing to hip urban audiences. No one knows what will happen when it starts playing for the dumb-asses in Redville on 11.21.

Dead Claus Postcript: Variety‘s box-office story projects an estimated $19.2 million — very optimistic! (“Christmas movies are a marathon, not a sprint.”) MCN’s Len Klady has estimated $18.5 million. A friend who knows this game pretty well is predicting the low 18 range.