Life yet in 'Saw's' bones

4th outing takes $32.1 mil; 'Dan' lands $12.1 mil

Lionsgate's "Saw IV" got the blood flowing a bit in the recently lifeless domestic boxoffice, opening at No. 1 with an estimated $32.1 million during the pre-Halloween weekend.

Disney's PG-13 romantic comedy "Dan in Real Life" debuted with a credible second-place performance, ringing up $12.1 million. And Sony's vampire film "30 Days of Night" finished third despite a 58% drop from its opening grosses, chomping into another $6.7 million while fleshing out its 10-day cume to $27.3 million.

Industrywide, the weekend represented a sixth consecutive down session. Grosses totaled an estimated $104 million, off 1% from the same frame last year, according to data tracker Nielsen EDI.

Lionsgate distribution president Steve Rothenberg said the "Saw" bow, while short of a franchise record, shows that "the horror genre is still alive and well."

"Saw" fans are particularly loyal, Rothenberg noted, with 89% of patrons for the third sequel saying they had seen all three previous splatterfests.

The original "Saw" opened during Halloween 2004 with $18.3 million and went on to gross $55.2 million domestically. A year later, "Saw II" bowed with $31.7 million and eventually took in $87 million. Last year, "Saw III" debuted with $33.6 million en route to an $80.2 million total.

Sony's "The Grudge" represents the best horror opener ever with its $39 million performance in October 2004.

Lionsgate has stood out in the lackluster fall marketplace, opening three films at No. 1 in the past eight weeks. The distributor's "3:10 to Yuma" and Tyler Perry's "Why Did I Get Married?" topped weekend rankings over the Sept. 7 and Oct. 12 frames, respectively.

"Saw IV" skewed 52% female, with 68% of patrons under 25.

"Dan" presented moviegoers with a real option to R-rated "Saw IV" during the weekend, and the older-skewing Steve Carell-Juliette Binoche starrer drew audiences comprising 70% couples.

"Audiences responded well to having a nice, funny movie back in the theaters," Disney distribution president Chuck Viane said.

About 55% of "Dan" patrons were female.

In a notable limited bow, ThinkFilm's Sidney Lumet-helmed "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" grossed an estimated $73,500 from a pair of New York playdates, an impressive $36,750 per engagement. "Devil" tempts moviegoers in more than 50 locations throughout New York and adjacent states starting Friday.

Roadside Attractions' Latino-oriented "Bella" debuted with $1.3 million from 165 runs, representing a solid $8,026 per venue.

MGM's disabilities drama "Music Within" bowed with $45,000 from 17 theaters, or a thin $2,647 per venue. The Sony Pictures Classics documentary "Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains" unspooled with seven engagements to gross $10,573 for just $1,510 per playdate.

Elsewhere, a handful of wide-playing holdovers from the past couple of sessions — in which opener after opener got lost amid a crush of competition — posted mercifully smallish drops.

The George Clooney starrer "Michael Clayton," which Warner Bros. still hopes will leg its way to a solid cume and perhaps awards-season glory, fell just 24% from its previous frame to gross $5 million in sixth place and move its four-week total to $28.8 million.

Miramax's "Gone Baby Gone," written and directed by Ben Affleck, fell 29% to $3.9 million in seventh place for a 10-day cume of $11.3 million.

And Fox's sports spoof "The Comebacks" slipped 37% in its sophomore session to fetch $3.5 million in eighth place with a $10 million cume.

Also, Disney's 3-D rerelease of the animated "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" used a 37% drop from sturdy opening grosses to ring up $3.3 million from just 564 theaters and finish 10th, bumping its cume to a notable $10 million.

New Line's Reese Witherspoon-Jake Gyllenhaal starrer "Rendition" was less fortunate in its second frame, slipping from the top 10 on a 43% drop to $2.3 million with a $7.7 million cume.

Paramount's "Things We Lost in the Fire," starring Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro — another weak opener last week — tumbled 54% to $715,000 with a $2.8 million cume.

Focus Features' literary adaptation "Reservation Road" continued its platforming path, adding 25 theaters for a total of 39 to gross an estimated $444,849 — a disappointing $1,150 per venue — with an $88,272 cume.

Focus' Ang Lee-helmed "Lust, Caution" added 18 engagements for a total of 143 and grossed $470,872, or an acceptable $3,293 per playdate, with a cume of $2.8 million.

Paramount Vantage's Sean Penn-directed "Into the Wild" continued in 658 locations and grossed $1.6 million, or $2,429 per site, with a cume of almost $9 million.

Fox Searchlight's Wes Anderson comedy "The Darjeeling Limited" added 497 runs for a total of 698 and grossed $1.7 million, or $2,486 per site, with a $6.1 million cume.

MGM's Ryan Gosling starrer "Lars and the Real Girl" added 275 theaters for a total of 296 and grossed $952,000, or $3,216 per venue, with a $1.4 million cume.

Freestyle's "Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour" more than halved its theatrical run for its second weekend — to 460 runs, after opening with 1,121 — and grossed $105,800, or a near-invisible $230 per location. Its cume is $648,521.

Looking to this week, at least a couple of the scheduled openers should offer broad appeal, perhaps helping to bolster the soft seasonal boxoffice.

Fall grosses are off 5% from a year ago, though year-to-date boxoffice remains up 6% over the same portion of 2006, EDI said.

Universal's Denzel Washington-Russell Crowe starrer "American Gangster" looks sure to dominate the marketplace during the coming frame, with the Ridley Scott-directed crime drama tracking tremendously in prerelease surveys. And DreamWorks/Paramount's high-profile CG-animated "Bee Movie" should play to a notably different crowd in the coming session, with execs expecting the PG-rated Jerry Seinfeld comedy to open with at least $35 million.

New Line's "Martian Child," starring John Cusack and Amanda Peet, also opens wide Friday.