It was going to be neck-and-neck between Fred Claus and American Gangster with both in the mid 20s…wrong. Claus is going to come in third with $19,463,000, and will probably end up in the $50 million range, at best, which makes it a shortfall in relation to production costs. A stumbler, a groaner…an occasion for long faces.

And they’re going to get longer next weekend. Mr. Magorium’s Emporium will be strong family-trade competition starting next weekend (11.16), and then Enchanted opens on 11.21, not to mention the Claus word-of-mouth effect. (It’s not very funny –critics despise it.) Exhibition has only two more weekends of business anyway. The over-30s start to disappear after Thanksgiving and don’t return until just before Xmas. So the big weekend box-office story is the death of Claus.

Jerry Seinfeld‘s Bee Movie has held decently and will be the weekend’s #1 film with $25,22,000 by Sunday night, give or take. American Gangster, off about 46% from last weekend, will be #2 with a little more than $25 million. Robert Redford‘s Lions for Lambs will end up with $6,667,000 — $3000 a theatre in 2200 situations.

No Country for Old Men‘s limited opening (28 theatres) will wind up with a little more that $29,000 a print, which is spectacular. Every last seat was apparently sold at every Arclight show yesterday except for the final late-night one.