Weekend Box Office: ‘Saw 3D’ Scares Up Business

Another Halloween, another entry in the deadening ‘Saw’ franchise – the witless, humorless muck that’s become as big a Halloween tradition as carving pumpkins or turning out the lights in your house early so that trick-or-treaters think that you’ve gone to bed when you’re really in your living room eating candy in the dark. (What? Just me?) Predictably, it took the top spot. Less predictable (especially when you factor in the 3-D surcharge and the two show times on Thursday night) was its unimpressive haul. The movie grossed about half of what ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ did last weekend, in two dimensions, with only some spooky noises and implied ghostly activity.

Saw 3D‘ is supposedly the last of the series, if you believe the pre-release hype and are incredibly gullible. It took in a reported $24.5 million, which makes it the box office king. The movie was only budgeted at around $20 million, so this will still end up making its money back, but it’s a long way from the titanic grosses of the first few sequels. Next weekend, with Halloween in everybody’s rear view and a solid slate of big time Hollywood fare debuting (including DreamWorks’ ‘Megamind’, which should scoop up a good number of 3-D houses away from ‘Saw 3D’), you should see it take a huge tumble. Not unlike…

‘Paranormal Activity 2‘ had a fairly steep 58% dive from last weekend, but still netted $17 million. That’s enough to secure second place. I really liked this movie, and I’m glad that everyday audiences are supporting something that relies more on cleverness than gross-out 3-D gags.

The rest of the Top 10 looks pretty standard. It’s worth noting that ‘RED‘ had incredible staying power in its third weekend. It slid just 29%, to retain the third spot. Again, don’t underestimate your audience. ‘RED’ has some guts, and a sturdy, mature cast. Everyone seems to be enjoying it, particularly older audiences who rightfully assume that there are too few movies made for people over 13.

The only other blip to consider is ‘Conviction‘, the true-life drama starring Sam Rockwell and Hilary Swank that may as well be called ‘Please Give Us Some Oscars’. The film expanded its theater count this weekend, which was enough for it to just barely crack the Top 10 at #10. I feel that this should steadily rise. It’s one of those middle-of-the-road dramas that audiences can easily embrace. If there’s a critic out there who wants to stand up for it before year’s end, that could also provide a little boost. You can tell that Fox Searchlight learned its lesson from the disastrous showing of ‘Amelia‘ last year. Instead of inching the release forward, ‘Amelia’ was released on a billion screens* (*possibly an exaggeration), and the thing just bombed. The studio didn’t wait it out to see if audiences were actually picking up what they were putting down. ‘Conviction’ is smarter in its roll out, and a similar model will be used next week when Danny Boyle’s certifiable masterpiece ‘127 Hours’ is unleashed.

The Top 10:

01 ‘Saw 3D’ (Lionsgate) – $24.5 million

02 ‘Paranormal Activity 2’ (Paramount) – $17 million

03 ‘RED’ (Summit) – $10.7 million

04 ‘Jackass 3D’ (Paramount) – $8.5 million

05 ‘Hereafter’ (Warner Bros) – $6.4 million

06 ‘Secretariat’ (Disney) – $5 million

07 ‘The Social Network’ (Sony) – $4.7 million

08 ‘Life As We Know It’ (Warner Bros) – $4.2 million

09 ‘The Town’ (Warner Bros) – $2 million

10 ‘Conviction’ (Fox) – $1.9 million

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