FINAL UPDATE MONDAY 2:06 PM: Gone Girl became just the second R-rated drama to defend its box office title in four years, and now Fox hopes to ride the box office momentum to awards season. With a solid drop of just 30%, the movie’s sophomore frame sets it up for a strong run as director David Fincher’s biggest film, taking a bead on 2008’s The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, which collected $127.5 million.

“That record is in play,” says Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson, who adds the studio plans no significant screen count change next weekend. “And that was a Christmas movie. The plan now is to let people join the watercooler talk.”

Fox hopes to change that talk to Oscar buzz, just as WB did with its October box office hit, 2012’s Argo, turning it into a 2012 Best Picture contender and winner. But Ben Affleck’s latest will face stiff competition this weekend, led by Brad Pitt’s World War II flick Fury, an R-rated Sony thriller, which will look to draw from Gone Girl‘s adult demographic.

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On the kid front, the animated The Book Of Life will look to pick up on on the cartoon front where The Boxtrolls left off. Lead by the voice of Diego Luna, Book is being marketed heavily to the Latino community, a powerful demographic.

Jason Reitman’s Men, Women, And Children goes wide this weekend, but is likely to find most of its box office buoyancy from cinephiles and awards watchers. The Best Of Me, meanwhile, hopes to tap into the Y.A. market left open by The Maze Runner, which is beginning its descent of the charts after a strong September.

Notable: Though it was bumped from the top 10 at the last minute, the documentary Meet The Mormons continued the industry’s strong run of religious-themed films. The movie did $2.5 million and averaged an impressive $9,500+ per screen.

Rentrak’s Monday finals:

1). Gone Girl (FOX), 3,284 theaters (+270)/ 3-day cume: $26.4M/ Total cume: $77.8M (-30%)/Wk 2

2). Dracula Untold (UNI), 2887 theaters /3-day cume: $23.5M/ Total cume: $23.5M/ Wk 1

3). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (DIS), 3088 theaters /3-day cume: $18.3M/ Total cume: $18.3/ Wk 1

4). Annabelle (WB), 3215 theaters (+30)/3-day cume: $15.8M (-57%)/ Total cume: $61.6M (-57%) /Wk 2

5). The Judge (WB), 3003 theaters /3-day  cume: $13.1M /Total cume: $13.1M/ Wk 1

6). The Equalizer (SONY), 3117 theaters (-119) /3-day $9.7M/ Total cume: $79.8M/Wk 3

7). Addicted (LGF), 846 theaters /3-day cume: $7.4M/ Total cume: $7.4M/ Wk 1

8). The Maze Runner (FOX), 3072 theaters (-533)/3-day cume: $7.2M/ Total cume: $83.7M/ Wk 4

9). The Boxtrolls (FOC), 3270 theaters (-194) /3-day cume: $6.6M/ Total cume: $40M/Wk 3

10). Left Behind (Freestyle), 1887 theaters (+62) /3-day cume: $2.8M (-55%) / Total cume: $10.8M (-55%) /Wk 2

UPDATE SUNDAY, 8:55 AM: With a strong Week 2 hold, Gone Girl swept to a weekend win at the box office over a raft of newcomers hoping to sink the David Fincher-Ben Affleck thriller by luring younger audiences. But October has enjoyed its revenue rebound on the backs of adult moviegoers, who are turning the Gillian Flynn adaptation into fall’s first hit.

Dropping a scant 26%, Gone Girl‘s sophomore frame sets the film on track to be Fincher’s best ever, eclipsing his 2006 Brad Pitt drama The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which did $127.5 million. It isn’t likely to enter Affleck’s personal record book, which lists 2001’s Armageddon as his biggest movie at $59 million (though Gone Girl did score his third-biggest debut at $37.5 million). And with wife Jennifer Garner scoring a third-place finish with Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, the two become a rare couple to square off in the box office top five.

“We were looking at a Captain Phillips-type dropoff,” says Chris Aronson, distribution chief for Fox. That dropped 36% in its second frame last year. Aronson says the studio plans to hold the same screen count for Gone Girl next weekend.

Were it not for Dracula Untold, it would have been a one-two finish for the couple. But the origins story from Universal and Legendary reached the high end of estimates and claimed second place with an A- CinemaScore and the second-biggest domestic opening on record for IMAX.

Dracula collected $4 million on 351 screens, behind only last year’s Gravity. Of the movie’s domestic haul, 9 of the top 10 locations were IMAX screens. Universal reports a worldwide cume of $86 million+, momentum the studio will have to maintain word of mouth to offset its $195 million negative cost plus distribution expenses (the studio puts the total budget at $130 million). Universal and Legendary are likely to have a substantial write off.  “I think we played less like a monster movie and more like an action adventure,” says Nikki Rocco, Universal’s head of distribution. “The movie paid attention to the folklore of Dracula, which is going to help us internationally.”

Alexander, meanwhile, capitalized on families hungry for kids fare, and also reached the high end of projections. With an A- CinemaScore, it’s $2.1 million overseas brought its global cume to $21.9 million. Make sure to read Nancy Tartaglione’s international box office report for more analysis.

Lost in the shuffle is Annabelle, the Conjuring spinoff that was a strong No. 2  last week and held well for the normally front-loaded horror genre. With a 57% drop (not bad for horror), the $6.5 million pic has collected $61 million+, and could give the WB another low-budget franchise.

Coming in fifth was Robert Downey Jr.’s legal thriller The Judge, which was likely cannibalized it’s R-rated competition in Gone Girl. Though it scored an A- Cinemascore, it landed smack in the middle of projections, good for fifth place. Its 47% on Rotten Tomatoes could spell trouble for its long-term prospects.

In limited release, Addicted, Meet the Mormons and St. Vincent flourished. The infidelity thriller Addicted, marketed largely African American audiences, hit the high end of projections and seventh place with $10,000+ per screen, while the documentary Meet the Mormons did nearly as well at $9,700 per screen and landed on the cusp of 10th place. The Weinsteins’ highly anticipated St. Vincent, starring Bill Murray, collected $121K weekend on four screens. More details in Brian Brooks’ specialty box office report.

The Sunday figures:

1). Gone Girl (FOX), 3,284 theaters (+270)  / $8MFri. / $11.2M Sat. (+38%)/ $7.7M Sun. (-31%) /3-day est. cume: $27M+ (-26%) / Total cume: $78.6M/Wk 2

2). Dracula Untold (UNI), 2887 theaters / $8.9M Fri. / $8.65M Sat. (-3%)/ $5.6M Sun. (-35%)/ 3-day est. cume: $23.3M/ Total cume: $23.3M/ Wk 1

3). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (DIS), 3088 theaters / $5.3M Fri. / $7.8M Sat. (+49%)/ $5.5M Sun. (-30%) /3-day est. cume: $18.6M/ Wk 1

4). Annabelle (WB), 3215 theaters (+30)/ $5.2MFri. / $6.7M Sat. (+28%) / $4.3M Sun. (-35%)/3-day est. cume: $16M (-57%)/ Total cume: $62.1M/Wk 2

5). The Judge (WB), 3003 theaters / $4.4MFri. / $5.3M Sat. (+21%) / $3.45M Sun. (-35%)/ 3-day est. cume: $13.25M /Total cume: $13.25M/ Wk 1

6). The Equalizer (SONY), 3117 theaters (-119) / $2.8MFri. / $4.2M Sat. (+52%)/ $2.65M Sun. (-36%)/3-day est. cume: $9.6M/ Total cume: $79.5-80M/Wk 3

7). Addicted (LGF), 846 theaters / $3M Fri. / $2.8M Sat. (-5%)/ $1.75M Sun. (-37%)/ 3-day est. cume: $7.6M/ Total cume: $7.6M/ Wk 1

8). The Maze Runner (FOX), 3072 theaters (-533)/ $2M Fri. / $3.2M Sat. (+57%) / $1.9M Sun. (-40%)/ 3-day est. cume: $7.2M/ Total cume: $83.7M/ Wk 4

9). The Boxtrolls (FOC), 3270 theaters (-194) / $1.6M Fri. / $3M Sat. (+84%)/ $1.9M Sun. (-35%)/ 3-day est. cume: $6.7M/ Total cume: $41M/Wk 3

10). Meet the Mormons (Purdie), 317 theaters/ $1.2M Fri. / $1.2M Sat. (-2%)/ $728K Sun. (-40%)/ 3-day est. cume: $3.2M/ Total cume: $3.2M/ Wk 1

10/11). Left Behind (Freestyle), 1887 theaters (+62) / $863K Fri. / $1.1M Sat.(+27%)/ $813K Sun. (-26%)/ 3-day est. cume: $2.8M (-55%) / Total cume: $10.8M/Wk 2

UPDATE SATURDAY, 11:48 PM: With Friday night moviegoers giving way to Saturday’s older audiences, Gone Girl took a bite out of Dracula Untold‘s revenues to appear to have the weekend locked up against a slate of newcomers, propelling director David Fincher closer to a career best.

The Gillian Flynn adaptation steamed toward a sophomore hold of $$27 million+, which would bring its 10-day revenues to $75 million+. Already, the Ben Affleck thriller scored Fincher’s best debut with $37.5 million, trouncing his 2002 record of Panic Room, which opened to $30 million. The film may be in striking range of Fincher’s 2006 Brad Pitt opus The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which collected $127.5 million.

Gone Girl continues its strong word of campaign with a social media push that RelishMix says numbered well over nine million Youtube views. The Dracula origins story, from Universal and Legendary, dwarfed the newcomers, says Moviepilot, racking up 28.6 million YouTube views over the weekend. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and the Robert Downey Jr. crime drama The Judge trailed with about 6.5 million YouTube hits apiece, though Alexander is likely going to benefit more from word of mouth thanks to young moviegoers, who will drive the Disney family film to a strong third place.

The Saturday night grosses:

1). Gone Girl (FOX), 3014 theaters / $8MFri. / $11.4M Sat. /3-day est. cume: $27.6 (-26%) / Wk 2

2). Dracula Untold (UNI), 2887 theaters / $8.9M Fri. / $8.7M Sat. / 3-day est. cume: $23M+/ Wk 1

3). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (DIS), 3088 theaters / $5.3M Fri. / $8.4M Sat. / 3-day est. cume: $19-20M/ Wk 1

4). Annabelle (WB), 3215 theaters (+30)/ $5.2MFri. / $6M+ Sat. / 3-day est. cume: $15.9M (-58%)/ Wk 2

5). The Judge (WB), 3003 theaters / $4.4M Fri. / $5.5M Sat. /3-day est. cume: $13M+/ Wk 1

UPDATE, SATURDAY, 8:15 AM: After withstanding a strong run on Friday from Dracula Untold, Gone Girl looks poised for a convincing win at the box office. And it’s shaping up to be a good weekend at the Ben Affleck-Jennifer Garner household. Affleck’s David Fincher drama Gone Girl looks to become the first R-rated drama since 2010’s Shutter Island to hold the box office crown two weekends in a row, closing in on a $27 million sophomore frame, stronger than analysts expected.

Universal and Legendary’s Dracula Untold, meanwhile, looks to become the third recent horror film, after The Purge: Anarchy  and Annabelle, to open above $20 million, reversing a dreadful first half of 2014 for horror flicks. It’s eying a bow of $23 million+. But classic horror costs more than contemporary fright flicks, with a $70 million budget — plus marketing and distribution costs that pushed it to $130 million — Dracula will have to endure to stay out of the red.

Garner, meanwhile, is helping Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day have a pretty good weekend. The Disney family film is tracking well with kids, who are driving it to a likely third-place finish with $18 million+ for the three-day. While married director-actor teams are fairly common in film, husbands and wives rarely face each other at the box office, let alone wind up in the top five.

Two films scoring particularly well: the infidelity thriller Addicted and the documentary Meet the Mormons. Marketed largely to African-American audiences, Addicted could post an $8 million+ debut, well above projections and scoring a stellar per-screen average of $10,200. Mormons, meanwhile, is averaging $9,700 on each of its 317 screens, likely landing it in the top 10 with a three-day debut of $3 million+, solidly eclipsing forecasts.

The early Saturday numbers:

1). Gone Girl (FOX), 3014 theaters / $8.1M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $27M (-26%) / Wk 2

2). Dracula Untold (UNI), 2887 theaters / $8.9M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $23.8M/ Wk 1

3). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (DIS), 3088 theaters / $5.2M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $18.9M/ Wk 1

4). Annabelle (WB), 3215 theaters (+30)/ $5.2MFri. / 3-day est. cume: $15.9M (-58%)/ Wk 2

5). The Judge (WB), 3003 theaters / $4.4MFri. / 3-day est. cume: $13.1M/ Wk 1

6). The Equalizer (SONY), 3117 theaters (-119) / $2.8MFri. / $3-day est. cume: $9.5M/ Wk 3

7). Addicted (LGF), 846 theaters / $3M Fri. / $3-day est. cume: $8.4M/ Wk 1

8). The Maze Runner (FOX), 3072 theaters (-533)/ $2.05M Fri. /3-day est. cume: $7.2M/ Wk 4

9). The Boxtrolls (FOC), 3270 theaters (-194) / $1.6M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $6.9M/ Wk 3

10). Meet the Mormons (Purdie), 317 theaters/ $1.2M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $3.3M/ Wk 1

UPDATE FRIDAY, 11:42 PM: What horror hex? Although it looks like Gone Girl‘s second-week hold will be strong enough to ward off a slate of newcomers, Dracula Untold is looking like a strong second — and continuing to reverse the box office slide that afflicted the genre the first half of 2014.

Early estimates suggest that Gone Girl will suffer minimal losses in its sophomore frame and could be on a trajectory for $24-$25 million. If estimates hold, the adaptation would be the first R-rated drama since Shutter Island in 2010 to defend its No. 1 position two weeks in a row.

But Dracula Untold scored well on Friday, even matinees. Though it mustered just a 26% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it scored an “A-” on CinemaScore, which should boost weekend horror crowds, notorious for ignoring critics and word of mouth. It’s positioned for a bow in the low $20’s.

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day actually had a pretty good Friday, particularly considering that its core demographic was in school. Alexander scored an “A-” CinemaScore, suggesting  it could see word of mouth that’s kept The Boxtrolls near the top of the charts. Its looking at a bow of $17+ million.

The verdict on The Judge isn’t a conviction, but the jury seems deadlocked on the crime drama with Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. Its 48% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes won’t help, but it did manage a CinemaScore “A-,”  enough to give WB hope for word of mouth. But it’s being cannibalized by the other R-rated crime drama starring a comic book superhero in Gone Girl. Its $5 million Friday suggest a three-day bow around $14-$15 million.

The dark thriller Addicted is scoring well with young adults as Lionsgate’s R-rated infidelity thriller managed a solid 78% on Flixster, suggesting word of mouth could propel the low-budget film to a strong debut of $7.5 million.

In limited release on 317 runs, the Mormon church is jumping into the faith-based film world.  Meet the Mormons is a documentary that follows several church members through a day in their lives.   The Mormon church groups seem to be buying into it, as the film currently has a screen average of $2,074 and is on the cusp of the top 10.   Though it’s hard to discern advance and group sales, MTM looks to make a solid bow of $2.8+ million.

Also in a moderate limited release from Focus Features is Kill The Messenger, starring Jeremy Renner.  The film is off to a poor start with a current screen average of just $105 dollars.   On 374 screens, Kill the Messenger is facing a $700-$880K bow that could make execs want to do just that.

One film in true limited release is opening fairly well this weekend.  The Weinsteins are opening the highly anticipated St. Vincent, starring Bill Murray, which collared $35K on four screens, putting onn track for a $106K weekend and a healthy per-screen of $26K per date.

The estimates:

1). Gone Girl (FOX), 3014 theaters / $8.1MFri. / 3-day est. cume: $25.5M (-39%) / Wk 2

2). Dracula Untold (UNI), 2887 theaters / $8M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $20M+/ Wk 1

3). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (DIS), 3088 theaters / $5M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $17.8-18.5M/ Wk 1

4). Annabelle (WB), 3215 theaters (+30)/ $5MFri. / 3-day est. cume: $15.5M (-58%)/ Wk 2

5). The Judge (WB), 3003 theaters / $4.55MFri. / 3-day est. cume: $14.2M/ Wk 1

6). The Equalizer (SONY), 3117 theaters (-119) / $2.85MFri. / $3-day est. cume: $9-10M/ Wk 3

7/8). The Maze Runner (FOX), 3072 theaters (-533)/ $2.05M Fri. /3-day est. cume: $7.4M/ Wk 4

7/8). Addicted (LGF), 846 theaters / $2.7M Fri. / $3-day est. cume: $7.5M/ Wk 1

9). The Boxtrolls (FOC), 3270 theaters (-194) / $1.6M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $6.5M/ Wk 3

10/11). Left Behind (Freestyle), 1887 theaters (+62) / $911K Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $2.9M (-40%) / Wk 2

10/11). Meet the Mormons (Purdie), 317 theaters/ $1.17M Fri. / 3-day est. cume: $2.8-3.2M/ Wk 1

UPDATE, FRIDAY, 10:16 AM: Dracula Untold earned $1.3 million in Thursday night screenings, but Gone Girl‘s late-week grosses suggest it’s in line to become the first R-rated drama since 2010 to hold the No. 1 position two weeks running.

The Dracula origins story from Universal and Legendary debuted on 2,133 screens to a solid-if-unspectacular start. The opening fell far behind Annabelle‘s $2.1 million Thursday screening last week, and slightly better than Gone Girl‘s $1.2 million.

Gone GirlBut the David Fincher-Ben Affleck thriller has been charging through its mid-week grosses, earning more than $3 million on Thursday and upping some estimates to $23M-$25M. The secret? Fox reports that Gone Girl is trending like a date movie. The bestseller adaptation continues to draw an audience that’s 60% female — high for a Fincher film. And despite the middle “B” Cinemascore and so-so exit polls stemming from the film’s ending, the scores aren’t hurting the movie, as audiences are turning out to join the discourse.

That could be a harbinger of trouble for the Robert Downey Jr.- Robert Duvall crime drama The Judge. While that film is skewing slightly older, Gone Girl could cut into couples viewing, as WB has heavily marketed The Judge’s father-son relationship. Very early returns suggest a top 5 order of Gone Girl, Dracula, Alexander, Annabelle and Judge. More figures as they roll in…

PREVIOUS, THURSDAY, 2:20 PM: After holding off Annabelle’s possessed doll in a photo finish at the box office last week, Gone Girl faces a new round of challengers in what could be another tight race, this time pitting the David Fincher-Ben Affleck thriller against Robert Downey Jr., Dracula and one peeved kid. And while the field is becoming overcrowded with fall entries, the race should help continue the box office’s rebound from a dismal September.

Although it’s taken some hits from critics as a typical courtroom drama, The Judge has wattage in the form of Downey and Robert Duvall. The $50 million pic from Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow, though, could be the season’s first victim of the overcrowded field. Like Gone Girl, it’s an R-rated drama starring a comic-book movie superhero. But it lacks the public chatter of Gone Girl, and could be cannibalized by adult competition. It’s on track for $13M-$17M, though estimates have ranged from $15M-$22M on all the newcomers, as has their expected order in the derby.

Despite an ending that is dividing audiences in exit polling, Fox’s Gone Girl should see a healthy hold from its $37.5 million debut to retain the No. 1 position with a haul of $20M-$22M and a screen count expanded to 3,284. If Gone Girl does hold, it would be the first R-rated drama to successfully defend its crown since 2010, when Shutter Island held twice on its way to $128 million. Warner Bros’ Annabelle, which opened to a nearly-as-impressive $37.1 million, will likely see a steeper drop-off as horror movies tend to be front-loaded. The Conjuring spinoff is on a trajectory of $15M-$17M for this frame.

What Gone Girl will face at the top of the heap, though, has analysts again conflicted as tracking runs the gamut. Like last week, horror appears to have the Friday night edge over the major newcomers as Universal and Legendary’s Dracula Untold is running a nip-and-tuck race with Gone Girl as Fandango’s leading ticket sellers. Bowing on 2,885 screens, the $70 million Dracula is on track for a bow in the low $20Ms. With a PG-13 rating, it will appeal to teens who couldn’t make it into the R-rated Annabelle.

If there’s a wild card among the new arrivals, it’s Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. An adaptation of Judith Viorst’s 1972 novel, Alexander stars Steve Carrell, Jennifer Garner and Ed Oxenbould. Like The Boxtrolls, Alexander should feed the appetite of young moviegoers whose demographic has been oddly lacking choices of late. Alexander’s range should be on par to the bows of such family titles this year as  Dolphin Tale 2, Boxtrolls and Muppets Most Wanted, all of which opened to $15M-$17M million each. With a budget of $27 million and the the powerful multiplier of kid matinee audiences, Alexander could be a dark horse.

As counter-programming, Lionsgate and CodeBlack offer Addicted, a low-budget thriller about extramarital affairs that has marketed largely to black audiences and is eyeing a debut of about $4M.