'Saw 3D' is Weekend's No. 1 Earner with $24.2 Million

Lions Gate

3D enthusiasm reversed flagging franchise interest for slasher film, with 3D venues contributing 92% of its weekend grosses.

They came, they saw, and Saw 3D conquered the domestic box office.

Horror fans flocked to Lionsgate's seventh and final chapter in its lucrative slasher franchise as 3D enthusiasm reversed flagging franchise interest for a full-blooded bow estimated at $24.2 million. Saw 3D boasted more than 2,100 3D locations among 2,808 total engagements, with 3D venues contributing 92% of its weekend grosses.

The chart-topping performance came despite any audience overlap with the previous weekend's No. 1 picture -- Paramount's haunted-house prequel Paranormal Activity 2, which fell 59% in its sophomore frame to scare up $16.5 million in second place and pile its cumulative coin to $65.7 million. Summit Entertainment's leggy action comedy RED copped the box-office bronze medal, fetching $10.8 million in its third session for a $58.9 million cume.

Saw 3D production costs were inflated by expenses associated with the 3D shoot, and at just less than $20 million it represented the most splashed-out on any Saw pic. Opening audiences for the R-rated movie were 56% male, with 57% of patrons under age 25; African-American patrons provided 42% of opening support and Latinos 18%.

The solid Halloween weekend tally for Saw 3D was still well short of a franchise record: Saw III bowed with a series-best $33.6 million in 2006 on the way to $80.3 million in U.S. and Canadian coin. The franchise's top domestic run came a year earlier, when Saw II fetched $87 million following a $31 million opening.

Saw VI unspooled last October with a disappointing $14.1 million and rang up $27.9 million overall domestically.

"Our emphasis from day one was 3D," Lionsgate distribution topper David Spitz said. "After last year, we knew we needed to infuse something into the franchise."

Lionsgate and co-production partner Twisted Pictures appear sincere in pulling the plug on Saw sequels, and there are no plans to convert previous chapters for 3D rerelease. But as the most lucrative horror series in film history, a franchise reboot would seem a distinct possibility.

On an industrywide basis, the weekend was strong. Top 10 finishers rung up a collective $83.8 million, or 13% more than top performers in the same frame last year, Rentrak said.

Looking ahead to next weekend, the fall box-office season starts to wind to a busy close with three wide releases set to hit multiplexes in its penultimate frame, including Paramount's DreamWorks Animation-produced Megamind.

The 3D animated adventure will need to start strongly, as its core family support will be in Warner Bros.' crosshairs just two weekends later when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 figures among wide openers set for the first session of the holiday box-office season.

Other wide releases set for Friday include Lionsgate's urban drama For Colored Girls and Warners' R-rated comedy Due Date.