'Final Destination' wins weekend

'Halloween II' opens in third place

Underscoring the arrival of 3D cinema, Warner Bros.' gorefest "The Final Destination" topped the domestic boxoffice during the weekend with a surprisingly strong, franchise-best bow estimated at $28.3 million.

Rob Zombie's "Halloween II" had tricked some prerelease forecasters into predicting a No. 1 debut for the sequel horror remake but still proved treat enough for the Weinstein Co. with a solid $17.4 million in third place. Execs said they were sufficiently pleased with the bow -- and impressed enough with the rival pic's opening -- to greenlight production of "Halloween 3D" for release next summer.

Meanwhile, the Weinstein-distributed "Inglourious Basterds" fell a relatively modest 47% from its week-earlier opening tally to ring up $20 million in second place and $73.8 million in cumulative boxoffice.

Focus Features' Ang Lee-directed "Taking Woodstock" scored a so-so $3.7 million from 1,393 playdates to camp out in ninth place during its first Friday-Sunday frame. Two days of early solo engagements in Los Angeles and New York shaped a five-day cume of $3.8 million.

Warners' family fantasy "Shorts" dropped 24% during its sophomore session for $4.9 million in eighth place and a $13.6 million cume.

The 10 top films collected $110 million during the weekend; Nielsen EDI said that was 28% more than last year's comparable Friday-Sunday span, which fell on Labor Day weekend. Summer 2009 boasts one more session than the year-ago summer, but the fall will have one fewer frame than the same season last year, according to EDI's boxoffice calendar.

Among limited bows, Roadside Attractions' Vogue documentary "The September Issue" unspooled in six theaters and grossed $240,078, or a fashionable $40,013 per venue.

First Independent's dramatic comedy "Big Fan" fetched $26,050 from single screens in New York and Philadelphia, representing a solid debut of $13,025 per venue.

IFC Films opened the Japanese drama "Still Walking" with a pair of New York playdates to gross $21,546, or an encouraging $10,773 per engagement.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Sony Pictures Classics' music doc "It Might Get Loud" added 23 theaters for a total of 30 and grossed $132,681. That representated an acceptable $4,423 per venue, with its cume hitting $363,126.

Freestyle Releasing's comedy "My One and Only" added six locations for a total of 10 and grossed $86,570, or a sturdy $8,651 per site, as its cume reached $172,559.

And Roadside's youth comedy "Mystery Team" grossed a pleasing $7,941 from a single playdate in Austin.

The New Line-produced "Destination" boasted a record 1,678 3-D screens among its 3,121 theaters, with 3D auditoriums contributing a per-screen average more than triple that of conventional venues.

"This was great, and it was all about the 3D and the fan support for the 'Final Destination' franchise," Warners executive vp distribution Jeff Goldstein said.

A fourth installment in New Line's 9-year-old horror franchise, "Destination" was produced for an estimated $40 million. "Final Destination 3" posted the franchise's then-best tallies in February 2006, when it bowed with $19.1 million and went on to register $54.1 million domestically.

Opening audiences for the fourth installment were 52% female, with 60% of patrons under 25. "Destination" gave Warners an industry-leading eight No. 1 openings this year, four of them New Line productions.

Distributed under Weinstein's Dimension Films genre label, R-rated "Halloween II" underperformed Zombie's first remake based on the classic horror franchise - August 2007's "Halloween," which unspooled with $30.6 million en route to $58.3 million in domestic boxoffice -- as well as the original "Halloween II," which bowed with $7.4 million in October 1981 and grossed $25.5 million overall domestically.

"We did really well, all things considered in going against another horror movie," Dimension topper Bob Weinstein said. "We're very happy as the film was produced on a $15 million budget, and we did very, very respectably."

Weinstein said the planned "Halloween 3D" represents a second franchise "reboot," with Zombie to be replaced by an unnamed new director for the project. "We wanted to see if there was still life in it," Weinstein said. "We think we can do something with it in 3D."

Opening audiences for "Halloween II" skewed 50% male, with 54% of patrons under 25.

Based on true events, "Woodstock" features an ensemble cast including Emile Hirsch and British actor Henry Goodman. Audiences were split among males and females, with 53% of patrons 25 or older.

"The opening is disappointing," Focus distribution president Jack Foley said.

The film played better in major cities than in smaller markets, he noted, but mixed reviews didn't help. "Reviews do matter for a film like this, Foley said.

Looking ahead, three wide openers are set for the summer-ending four-day holiday frame as the industry strives to boost seasonal boxoffice to an all-time high. Those include Lionsgate's sci-fi actioner "Gamer," Fox's romantic comedy "All About Steve" and Miramax's comedy "Extract."
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