$29 mil 'Chain' reaction out-grosses 'Bill'

This article was updated at 3:58 p.m.

New Line horror remake “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” hacked out an estimated $29.1 million in weekend box office to post the second-biggest October bow ever.

Blood-lust rival “Kill Bill, Vol. 1″ from Miramax saw an acceptable 43% soph-session drop in grossing $12.5 million in second place. 20th Century Fox’s courtroom drama “Runaway Jury” — disadvantaged by older males’ preoccupation with World Series baseball — opened in third with $12.1 million.

Fox is simply distribbing “Jury” for producer New Regency, where execs suggested today’s final weekend numbers will show the lit adaptation actually outperformed “Bill.”

” ‘Runaway Jury’ out-grossed ‘Kill Bill’ by at least $300,000,” Regency CEO David Matalon said.

If the official data bear out that claim, “Jury” would rank as the frame’s B.O. runner-up, with “Bill” dropping to the bronze-medal position.

“School” still rockin’

Paramount’s leggy laffer “School of Rock” was fourth with $11.3 million. And Warner Bros.’ “Mystic River,” another pic skewing to baseball-mindful older demos, was fifth with $10.4 million over the Clint Eastwood-helmed drama’s first frame in wide release.

Industrywide, weekend repped 26% improvement over the same frame a year earlier with $114 million in total estimated grosses, according to B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI.

Year-to-date, 2003 B.O. is running even with a comparable portion of last year.

Among other soph-session titles, MGM’s family laffer “Good Boy!” managed a particularly benign fall-off of just 31%, producing $9 million in sixth place. And Universal/Imagine’s dark comedy “Intolerable Cruetly” landed seventh in its second weekend on a routine 45% drop to $6.9 million.

But Artisan’s horror pic “The House of the Dead” was sliced up by “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and plunged 68% in its second frame to gross $1.8 million outside of the weekend top 10.

Focus Features enjoyed an impressive limited bow of its Sylvia Plath biopic “Sylvia” this weekend. Gwyneth Paltrow starrer fetched an estimated $56,132 from three Gotham and L.A. runs, or $18,711 per engagement. “Sylvia” expands to 10 additional markets Friday.

Focus’ high-profile Bill Murray starrer “Lost in Translation” shed 111 playdates this session for a total 771, grossing $2 million amid the thinning market hold.

Perf repped an underwhelming $2,564 per engagement but pushed cume to $21 million. That’s considerable coin for a specialty release, though prospects of a robust commercial crossover appear dimming.

United Artists unspooled comedy-laced drama “Pieces of April” in a half-dozen sites in Gotham and L.A. this weekend, grossing a notable $48,000. “April” enters seven more cities Friday.

Elsewhere in the specialty market, Miramax expanded its well-reviewed drama “The Station Agent” by 47 playdates for a total 50 and grossed $203,000. Perf repped a solid $4,060 per engagement with a $378,661 cume.

Thinkfilm’s Biblical drama “The Gospel of John” added 12 theaters for a total 31 and grossed $124,860, a sturdy $4,028 per venue with a $519,095 cume.

Distrib held over its docu “Bust 187″ in a single Gotham venue this weekend and grossed $10,310 a week prior to pic’s expanding to L.A. and Chicago.

“Pirates” tops $300 mil

Meanwhile, Disney’s summer blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean,” still playing in 493 theaters, reached a magical $300.6 million cume with another $654,000 in weekend B.O. Feat gave Mouse an unprecedented second $300 mil perf this year, following its boffo success with summer tooner “Finding Nemo.”

This frame’s “Chainsaw Massacre” bow was bigger than any previous October opening except last year’s “Red Dragon,” another R-rated pic that debuted with $36.5 million. A remake of a 1974 splatter classic, “Chainsaw” drew evenly between males and females, with 75% of patrons under age 25. Pic is produced by Michael Bay, reality TV producer Mike Fleiss, Andrew Form and Bradley Fuller.

New Line distribution prexy David Tuckerman described the three-day gross for the Marcus Nispel-helmed pic as a “huge number” that’s additionally impressive in light of its restricted rating and modest production budget.

“We grossed the budget on Friday night,” Tuckerman said.

“Chainsaw” whacked up the weekend with a $10.9 million Friday, $11.1 million Saturday and an estimated $7.2 million Sunday. The Saturday uptick was considered notable, as horror pics tend to post their biggest gross Friday and fade thereafter.

By contrast, industryites had expected an even bigger Saturday climb than “Runaway Jury” posted.

Helmed by Gary Fleder and toplined by Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman and John Cusack, “Jury” grossed $4.2 million Friday and $5.1 million Saturday, penciling in $3 million for Sunday when Game 2 of the New York Yankees-Florida Marlins series was expected to draw older eyeballs once again. “Jury” pool proved 54% femme, with 82% of patrons 25 or older.

“I’m pleased,” Fox distribution topper Bruce Snyder said. “I would have liked to see it open higher, but it’s an adult film and hopefully will play longer.”

Warners distribution boss Dan Fellman was similarly sanguine about the weekend perf for “River,” which stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and Kevin Bacon.

“We’re off and running,” Fellman said. “We got hurt like most of the other movies by the baseball game on Saturday night. (But) we’re in this for the long run.”

“River” ran 60% female, with a whopping 62% of patrons over age 35. Some 68% of moviegoers told exit pollsters they would “definitely recommend” the pic.

Sony drew 75% capacity auds to 900 sneak previews of its Revolution co-prod “Radio,” which is set for wide release next weekend. Some 97% of patrons rated Cuba Gooding Jr. starrer “excellent” or “very good” in exit surveys, execs said.

Other wide openers set for Friday include Miramax/Dimension’s horror spoof “Scary Movie 3″ and Paramount’s Third World drama “Beyond Borders.”

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