‘School’ still rules box office

Saturday bump puts Disney pic on top

Disney’s “High School Musical 3: Senior Year” enjoyed a massive rebound from Halloween to place No. 1 at the North American box office for the second weekend in a row and push its worldwide total to an estimated $146.8 million after 10 days in release.

Theater traffic slows down dramatically when Halloween falls on a Friday, and this year was no exception. “HSM3” grossed a mere $1.7 million on Friday, followed by a Saturday take of $8.2 million — a day-over-day increase of nearly 400%.

Mouse House film ended the weekend with an estimated gross of $15 million from 3,626 locations for a domestic cume of $61.8 million, according to Rentrak. Overseas, the pic grossed $25.9 million; cume is $85 million.

Landing at No. 2 domestically was the Weinstein Co.’s R-rated laffer “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” Directed by Kevin Smith, comedy opened to an estimated $10.7 million from 2,735 on the strength of younger moviegoers. The Seth Rogen-Elizabeth Banks pic was up a hefty 124% Saturday over Friday.

Lionsgate’s “Saw V” came in third in its second frame, grossing an estimated $10.1 million from 3,084 for a meaty cume of $45.8 million.

Clint Eastwood’s Angelina Jolie starrer “Changeling,” from Universal, grossed an estimated $9.4 million from 1,850 as it opened nationwide. Film placed No. 4. “Changeling” posted a per location average of $5,085, the best of any film in the top 10 chart. U opened the film the previous week in a limited run.

Freestyle’s horror pic “The Haunting of Molly Hartley” grossed an estimated $6 million from 2,652 screens to come in No. 5.

Both Disney’s “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” and Fox Searchlight’s “The Secret Life of Bees” held well. “Chihuahua” came in No. 6 in its fifth frame, declined to an estimated $4.7 million from 3,004 for a cume of $84 million. Placing No. 7, “Bees” declined 34% to an estimated $4 million from 1,611; cume is $25.3 million.

Overall, the weekend was down a whopping 36% over the same weekend last year, likely because of Halloween. “HSM3” and “Saw V” both saw sizable weekend-over-weekend declines of 64% and 66%, respectively. Business is expected to pick up considerably next weekend, when “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” opens.

“Halloween is devastating when it’s on a Friday. When it falls on a weekday, the box office is actually up,” said 20th Century Fox senior VP of distribution Chris Aronson.

Some in Hollywood thought “HSM3” was in trouble, based on Friday’s meager gross, but Disney prexy of distribution Chuck Viane anticipated the bloodletting. He also was fairly confident the pace would pick up on Saturday, when younger girls and teenage girls were once again free.

“It just shows the great life the movie is going to have,” Viane said.

Throughout the weekend, the race for No. 2 appeared relatively close between “Zack and Miri,” “Saw” and “Changeling” until TWC went out with $10.7 million. Universal and Lionsgate said TWC was being too bullish in its Sunday estimate for “Zack and Miri,” driving up the weekend number. Final tallies come out Monday.

“I’m calling this a dead heat,” U prexy of distribution Nikki Rocco said.

TWC prexy of distribution Steve Bunnell disagreed.

“We are making a strong estimate based on our huge success on Saturday. Halloween weekend is very difficult to predict, because the last time Halloween fell on a Friday was in 2003. There were no new wide releases that day, so there’s not a lot of data to judge by,” Bunnell said.

In 2003, Disney decided to wait until Saturday to open toon “Brother Bear” nationwide. Pic dropped only 24% on Sunday, roughly the same drop TWC is estimating for “Zack and Miri,” although “Brother Bear” was a family film.

Regardless, both “Zack and Miri” and “Changeling” got off to a good start.

“Zack and Miri” cost roughly $20 million to produce, with TWC making up most of that money in foreign sales, according to the company.

The word “porno” proved a challenge for TWC as some theater owners, TV networks and newspapers refused to display the full title. TWC didn’t object to the title being shortened.

“We were a little disappointed on Friday, but then came the surge. I’m glad to see people responded to the film as a Seth Rogen comedy, as opposed to responding to it as a controversial movie,” Bunnell said.

TWC was particularly pleased that women turned out for the movie. Some 55% of the audience were male while 63% were under age 30.

“Zack and Miri” opened lower than Rogen’s previous comedies, including “Pineapple Express” ($23.2 million) and “Knocked Up” ($30.7 million). However, its debut was right in line with those of Smith’s other recent films, including “Clerks II” ($10 million).

Likewise, “Changeling” mirrored the nationwide debuts of Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby” ($12.2 million) and “Mystic River” ($10.4 million). The Oscar-winning “Million Dollar Baby” cumed $100.4 million domestically, while “Mystic River” took $90.1 million. U is eying an awards campaign for Jolie’s performance, although the pic received only so-so reviews.

“Changeling” won the Friday box office, since it played to older adults and older women in particular. A full 68% of the aud were over age 30, and 61% were women.

“People loved the movie because of the story and Angelina Jolie,” Rocco said. “And Clint has such great multiples.”

The playability of “Changeling” could depend upon how much awards attention the film gets. Also, Eastwood has another film coming out this year, “Gran Torino,” which Warner Bros. opens in December. In addition to directing, Eastwood also stars in “Gran Torino.”

The specialty side was relatively quiet in terms of new openers. Imagine Entertainment’s “My Name Is Bruce” looks to have scored the best location average of the weekend — $18,777 — as it is estimated to have grossed that amount from one run.

Holdover “Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom” posted a per location average of $14,818 in grossing an estimated $74,090 from five locations for a cume of $287,682 in its second sesh. Sony Pictures Classics’ “Synecdoche, New York” scored a per location average of $11,127 in its second frame, grossing an estimated $100,147 from nine runs for a cume of $338,629.

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