$49 mil 'Scary 3' preem a B.O. scream

This article was updated at 8:43 p.m.

Miramax/Dimension’s “Scary Movie 3″ opened scary big with an October-best bow estimated at $49.7 million.

Horror spoof’s PG-13 rating and super-saturation distribbing in 3,505 theaters helped the David Zucker-helmed sequel outperform its R-rated franchise predecessors frightfully.

New Line’s remake of splatter classic “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” chopped 48% from opening grosses at $14.7 million and finished second over its soph session.

Sony/Revolution’s Cuba Gooding Jr. starrer “Radio,” shown heavily in sneak previews over the past two weekends, opened toward the high-end of pre-release forecasts with an estimated $14 million in third place.

But Paramount/Mandalay’s Third World drama “Beyond Borders,” starring Angelina Jolie, bowed almost beyond notice with a $2 million perf ranked outside of the box office top 10.

Industrywide, the weekend marked a 22% improvement over the same frame a year ago with $130 million in total estimated grosses, according to B.O. tracker Nielsen EDI. Year-to-date, 2003 is flat with a comparable portion of last year.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox/New Regency’s courtroom drama “Runaway Jury” displayed a remarkably sticky market hold in its second weekend, dropping just 29% to $8.4 million in fourth place.

And Warner Bros.’ Clint Eastwood-helmed “Mystic River” managed an even skimpier 27% fall-off in its second weekend of wide release following a limited bow three sessions ago. “Mystic,” which stars Tim Robbins, Sean Penn and Kevin Bacon, grossed $7.6 million to grab fifth place and push 19-day cume to $24.6 million.

Par’s leggy laffer “School of Rock” slid 41% in its fourth frame to $6.5 million in sixth place, with a $63.4 million cume. And Miramax’s Quentin Tarantino-helmed “Kill Bill, Vol. 1″ carved out $6 mil in seventh place for $53.7 million through its third weekend.

‘Boy’ finishes 8th

MGM’s “Good Boy!,” Universal’s “Intolerable Cruelty” and Disney’s “Under the Tuscan Sun” grabbed rungs eight through 10 in B.O. rankings with $4.9 million, $3.6 million and $2.2 million, respectively.

Specialty openers included Sony Screen Gems’ Meg Ryan starrer “In the Cut,” which grossed $128,000 from a half-dozen Gotham and L.A. playdates since a Wednesday bow. Weekend haul $95,000 repped an impressive $15,777 per location a week before expanding to about 800 engagements.

Paramount Classics’ Robert Downey Jr. starrer “The Singing Detective” grossed an estimated $28,100 from an inaugural five theaters in Gotham and L.A. Sturdy perf of $5,620 per venue precedes a Friday expansion in existing cities and Nov. 7 widening to top 10 markets.

Fine Line’s Gus Van Sant-helmed “Elephant” bowed in six Gotham and L.A. locations and grossed $90,000 for a notable $15,000 per site. School-shooting drama expands to top 20 markets on Nov. 7.

Elsewhere among specialty titles, Focus Features’ Bill Murray starrer “Lost in Translation” maintained decent market traction with $1.4 million from 568 locations, or $2,540 per site with a $23.1 million cume.

‘Veronica’ weak

But Disney’s Irish thriller “Veronica Guerin,” which held in 472 locations, grossed only $289,000, or $613 per site with a $1.2 million cume. Miramax drama “The Station Agent” added eight theaters this weekend for a total 58 and grossed $224,344, or $3,868 per venue with a $712,327 cume.

United Artists laffer “Pieces of April” added 29 theaters for a total 35 and grossed $190,000, or a solid $5,440 per venue with a $259,000 cume.

Focus’ Gwyneth Paltrow starrer “Sylvia” added 29 locations for a total 32 and grossed $164,217, or $5,132 per site with a $252,417 cume.

ThinkFilm’s Christian drama “The Gospel of John” added 23 playdates for a total 54 and grossed $189,398, or $3,506 per engagement with a $736,000 cume.

Distrib’s docu “Bus 174″ added four theaters for a total five and grossed $20,185, or $4,037 with a $53,155 cume.

Looking to next weekend, wide openers include Disney’s traditional tooner “Brother Bear.” G-rated family fantasy bows in wide release on Saturday to bypass the B.O.-iffy Halloween holiday on Friday.

“Bear” enjoyed boffo exlusive engagements in Gotham and L.A. this weekend, ringing up $285,026 — an amazing $142,513 per venue.

“It’s quite a start, to say the least,” Mouse’s distribution prexy Chuck Viane observed.

‘Stain,’ Alien’ on the way

Also bowing over the coming frame are Miramax’s lit-adaptation “The Human Stain,” which unspools Friday, and Fox’s re-release of scifi classic “Alien,” which debuts Wednesday.

“Scary 3″ helmer Zucker — who’s attached to direct a “Scary Movie 4″ and was already renowned for helming labors on spoofs including 1980’s “Airplane!” — was also a producer on the pic. Zucker’s work on “Scary 3″ coincides with the comedic Wayans brothers’ exit from the franchise.

Dimension topper Bob Weinstein said Zucker helped draw older moviegoers who were fans of “Airplane!” And thesps including Queen Latifah and Charlie Sheen were noted by many patrons in exit surveys as having prompted their visit for “Scary 3,” he said.

Rating’s key

But the less restrictive rating on the latest franchise installment appeared to mean the most in the monster bow.

“That was a consideration from the get-go,” Weinstein said. “We saw how successful pictures like ‘Austin Powers’ were with a PG-13 rating.”

Big success in homevid for the first two “Scary” pics also motivated filmmakers to shoot for a more inclusive rating on the latest installment to accommodate a greater breadth of franchise fans, he added.

The plan appeared to work, as “Scary 3″ drew well among both younger and older demos, and evenly attracted men and femmes.

“When you have a comedy that can appeal to the young as well as the old, an R rating can close off a part of the audience,” noted Dan Marks, exec VP at B.O. tracker EDI.

‘Scary 2′ disappointing

“Scary 2″ opened with $20.5 million in July 2001 and grossed $53 million overall domestically. That was a disappointment, as the franchise original had bowed with $42.3 million a year earlier and went on to gross $157 million domestically.

Before “Scary 3,” the biggest previous October opening was Universal’s R-rated “Red Dragon,” an adult-targeted horror/thriller that bowed with $35.5 million over the Oct. 4, 2002, frame.

“Radio” grosses repped a “solid opening,” Sony distribution prexy Rory Bruer said.

“Everybody’s really happy,” Revolution partner Tom Sherak said.

Both execs added that pic’s prospects for more substantial success lie over future frames as positive word of mouth spreads.

Par execs were clearly disappointed by the “Borders” bow, but the studio is taking only a distribution fee domestically on the Mandalay production. Par acquired foreign rights in handful of territories.

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