'Halloween' pulls neat trick with end-of-summer treat

$30.6 mil a record for Labor Day

Michael Myers, the knife-weilding psycho who has been the driving force in eight previous "Halloween" movies, roared back to life during the Labor Day weekend at the North American boxoffice, where his latest screen incarnation in director Rob Zombie's "Halloween" sliced and diced its way to the top of the heap.

Grossing $30.6 million during the four-day weekend, "Halloween," produced by the Weinstein Co.'s Dimension Films label and distributed by MGM, established a new Labor Day weekend opening record. The crown had belonged to "Transporter 2," which bowed to $20.1 million during the holiday weekend in 2005, but "Halloween," which opened in a wide 3,472 theaters, easily blasted past that barrier.

Although the franchise dates back to 1978, when John Carpenter first directed, Zombie set out to do a remake, which also functions as a quasi-sequel, rather than string out another of the series' increasingly improbable sequels. According to CinemaScore's sampling of the opening-weekend audience, males turned out in droves — the audience tilted male 62%-38%. A lot of them must have grown up with the franchise, too, because 57% of the audience was 25 or older. Overall, moviegoers awarded the R-rated film a B-minus.

Under the banner of its genre label Rogue Pictures, Focus Features also took advantage of the Labor Day weekend to launch its martial arts parody "Balls of Fury," directed by Robert Ben Garant and starring Dan Fogler and Christopher Walken. The PG-13 comedy took third place overall for the weekend with a gross of $14.1 million, and because it actually opened on the Wednesday before the holiday, its cume stands at $17.1 million.

20th Century Fox had less luck with its revenge thriller "Death Sentence," directed by James Wan ("Saw") and starring Kevin Bacon. The R-rated film, which Fox was distributing for Hyde Park Films, limped into eighth place with a $5.3 million four-day gross. The film attracted an older, male audience, according to CinemaScore, but they dismissed the movie with an overall grade of C.

Nevertheless, the boxoffice ended the season on another high note. The 117 films tracked by The Hollywood Reporter grossed a collective $148.6 million, up nearly 14% compared with the $130.6 million the industry took in at the same time a year ago.

Adding their strength to the frame's lineup were Sony Pictures' "Superbad," which took in another $15.9 million during its third weekend as it took second place and its cume climbed to $92.7 million; Universal Pictures' "The Bourne Ultimatum," which grossed $13.4 million in its fifth weekend, securing the fourth spot and watching its cume climb above the $200 million mark to $202.8 million; and New Line Cinema's "Rush Hour 3," in fifth place, grabbing $10.8 million in its fourth weekend as its domestic cume hit $122.7 million.

In more limited release, Lionsgate reached out to Latino audiences with the Spanish-language heist movie "Ladron que roba a ladron," which bowed in 340 theaters, reportedly the widest opening ever for a Spanish-language movie in North America. The film took in $2 million plus change for a healthy per-theater average of $5,979.

In 16 theaters, ThinkFilm introduced the autobiographically inspired "Self-Medicated," written, directed by and starring Monty Lapica. The R-rated movie about a troubled teen battling addiction grossed $60,168 for a per-screen average of $3,761.

Newmarket Films raised the curtain on writer-director John August's "The Nines," a triptych of Los Angeles stories and starring a cast headed by Ryan Reynolds and Hope Davis, who both play multiple characters. On two screens, the film picked up a promising $29,172 for a per-screen average of $14,586.
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