Dave Karger
August 07, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Tom Cruise as a villain may not be as strong a box office draw as Tom Cruise as a hero, but he’s still potent enough for a No. 1 opening.

Cruise’s latest thriller, ”Collateral,” premiered with $24.4 million over its first three days, according to studio estimates. The film, directed by Michael Mann and costarring Jamie Foxx, was buoyed by strong reviews, but apparently hurt by its R rating and Cruise’s turn as a dastardly hitman. Still, ”Collateral” performed better than ”Road to Perdition,” which starred Tom Hanks as a villain and mustered $22.1 million in the summer of 2002.

Last week’s top film, ”The Village,” plummeted a shocking 67 percent from its $50.7 million debut to only $16.6 million in its second weekend. Among movies that opened with more than $20 million, that’s the second-biggest drop of all time, behind only ”The Hulk,” which fell off by 70 percent. Bad reviews and word-of-mouth are obviously to blame in this case as well.

”The Bourne Supremacy” and ”The Manchurian Candidate” each slipped one spot, with $14.1 million and $10.8 million, respectively, while Brittany Murphy’s romance ”Little Black Book” flopped with just $7 million, essentially ruining her chances to join Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Garner as strong romantic-lead prospects for the future.

And down in 16th place was the ultra-frightening indie ”Open Water,” which managed to gross more than $1 million despite playing in only 47 theaters — that’s a per-theater average of over $22,000. Looks like people didn’t mind paying to be scared witless.

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