Halloween played a trick on Hollywood studios this weekend, scaring away moviegoers Friday night.
Total box-office receipts of $85 million were down nearly 37% compared with the same weekend last year, according to results tracker Media by Numbers. Still, Walt Disney Co.'s uplifting "High School Musical 3" bounced back Saturday to reclaim its front row seat at the box office for a second straight weekend, with an expected three-day total of $15 million in ticket sales.
"This is the type of film people want to see right now," Chuck Viane, Disney's president of domestic distribution, said Sunday. Although it dropped 64% from last weekend, Viane still gave the G-rated film's performance an "A" because it has rung up more than $61 million in sales domestically and more than $140 million worldwide.
An analysis of the weekend numbers for "High School Musical 3," however, highlighted Hollywood's Halloween horror. Disney's first-place film squeaked out $1.7 million in sales Friday, Viane said, before getting a boost with $8.2 million in receipts Saturday.
"We all got hurt by Halloween being on Friday. The whole industry felt it," said Steve Bunnell, distribution chief for Weinstein Co., which estimated that its latest release, the R-rated comedy "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," would finish the weekend in second place, with $10.7 million in ticket sales.
The last time Halloween fell on a Friday was 2003, and it poses a more frightening scenario for studios in 2009 when the holiday surfaces on Saturday, which is the biggest day of the week for ticket sales.
The weekend saw three films vying for second place: Weinstein's "Zack and Miri," Lionsgate's horror movie "Saw V" and Universal Pictures' "The Changeling," a tale of how the Los Angeles Police Department handled the 1920s abduction of a 9-year-old boy.
"Zack and Miri Make a Porno" encountered resistance in some regions because of the word "porno" in the show's title. The film, directed by Kevin Smith and starring Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks, was rejected by at least one theater chain, in Utah, but played in 2,735 theaters.
"It was an unwanted controversy. It was surprising to us that we ended up in that debate," Bunnell said. The film is about two cash-strapped friends who scheme to make a porn movie to get them out of their money jam.
"We thought people would realize that it was a joke, that this was a comedy," he said.
It was the second weekend for the latest installment of the "Saw" franchise, which, not surprisingly, did better than its competition Friday. Still, "Saw V" dropped 66% to $10.1 million from its opening weekend total of $32 million. The film should finish the weekend in third place.
The previous installment, "Saw IV," fell similarly in its second weekend. That makes "Saw V" another steady hand, with nearly $46 million so far, and on pace to end up with about $58 million in sales.
"That's absolutely marvelous for the fifth picture in a franchise," said Steve Rothenberg, Lionsgate's president of domestic distribution.
"The Changeling," starring Angelina Jolie and directed by Clint Eastwood, expanded its run this weekend to 1,850 theaters and was expected to generate about $9.4 million in sales to come in fourth.
Finishing at No. 5 was the teen horror film "The Haunting of Molly Hartley." It took in an estimated $6 million, becoming the largest opening for distributor Freestyle Releasing.
In a possible prelude to its U.S. opening later this month, the latest James Bond adventure, "Quantum of Solace," captured box-office history in Britain and Ireland by taking in 4.9 million pounds ($8 million) on its opening day and 15.4 million pounds for the weekend, surpassing the opening weekend total of "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," according to distributor Sony Pictures Entertainment.
That's 35% more than its predecessor, "Casino Royale," collected during its opening weekend in 2006 in Britain and Ireland. Adding revenue from France and Sweden brought "Quantum's" weekend total to $38.6 million.
The 22nd James Bond picture, starring Daniel Craig, opens in the U.S. on Nov. 14.
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WEEKEND BOX OFFICE
Preliminary results (in millions) in the U.S. and Canada, based on studio projections:
*--* Movie 3-day gross Total Weeks (studio) (millions) (millions)
1 High School Musical 3 (Disney) $15 $61.8 2
2 Zack and Miri Make a Porno 10.7 10.7 1 (Weinstein Co.)
3 Saw V (Lionsgate) 10.1 45.8 2
4 Changeling (Universal) 9.4 10.1 2
5 The Haunting of Molly Hartley 6 6 1 (Freestyle Releasing)
6 Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney) 4.7 84.1 5
7 The Secret Life of Bees 4 25.3 3 (Fox Searchlight)
8 Max Payne (20th Century Fox) 3.7 35.6 3
9 Eagle Eye (DreamWorks/Paramount) 3.4 92.5 6
10 Pride and Glory (Warner Bros.) 3.3 11.6 2 *--*
*--* 3-day gross Change Year-to-date gross Change (in millions) from 2007 (in billions) from 2007 $85 -36.5% $7.78 -0.1% *--*
Source: Media by Numbers