Final chapter of torture epic takes in $24.2 mil

The weekend’s domestic B.O. saw less blood and gore than expected as “Saw 3D” carved up “Paranormal Activity 2,” with Lionsgate’s last planned “Saw” installment topping out at an estimated $24.2 million from 2,808 locations.

Debut take for “Saw 3D” easily beat the $16.5 million that Paramount estimated for “Paranormal 2″ in its soph sesh.

Going into the Halloween weekend, some B.O. observers expected “Paranormal 2″ to hold better (the pic fell 60%, a normal drop for horror films), given the series’ enthusiastic fanbase and popularity. Domestic totals for the sequel reached $65.7 million through the weekend.

“Saw 3D” tapped into a similar target demo to that of “Paranormal 2,” primarily younger males, playing consistent with the franchise’s previous offerings. The 3D format — a first for the “Saw” pics — contributed a sizable 92% of the pic’s estimated weekend gross from more than 2,100 3D-equipped locations.

Holding well with auds over 25, Summit’s “Red” dropped just 28% in its third frame, claiming the No. 3 spot with an estimated $10.8 million for a cume of $58.9 million domestically.

Fox Searchlight gained traction with specialty pic “Conviction,” expanding the film to 565 locations, up 510 from last weekend, and rounding out the top 10 with an estimated $1.8 million. The Hilary Swank biopic’s overall domestic gross stands at $2.4 million in its third week of release.

“Saw 3D” ended the global hit franchise on a high note internationally. The previous six “Saw” blades have racked up $763 million worldwide. The 3D scarer scored a record-breaking perf in the U.K., bowing 30% higher than the other “Saw” pics for a weekend take there of $5.3 million.

“Saw 3D” launched day-and-date with the U.S. in 22 overseas territories, with an estimated $11.5 million.

Lionsgate improved significantly on last year’s “Saw” offering, which fell victim to the first “Paranormal Activity” in its domestic debut, and earned the lowest opening weekend for the franchise at $14.1 million.

Originally set to bow the same weekend as “Paranormal 2,” Lions-gate moved “Saw 3D” to avoid a similar clash with the “Paranormal” phenom. By shifting the release to a week later, “Saw 3D” benefited from a more traditional wide release given to “Paranormal 2,” which lacked the potent word of mouth of its predecessor.

“Last year, every one pretty much wrote off the franchise, but we realized that 3D, combined with the fact that it’s the final chapter, were the two components that would make it an event,” said Lionsgate distrib topper David Spitz.

And while the 3D format fell short in creating buzz for “Saw 3D” similar to that of Par’s “Jackass 3D,” Spitz still described the studio’s 3D marketing as the catalyst for the pic’s successful launch. Lionsgate created the 3D illusions of an eyeball and a bust of series villain Jigsaw, featuring thesp Tobin Bell, for posters and online marketing materials.

Though horror pics typically skew young, a relatively low 54% of the “Saw 3D” crowd was under 25. Bloodier than some horror pics that draw more female auds, “Saw 3D” played slightly better with males at 56%.

Typically, the Halloween weekend is a soft sesh with auds preoccupied with other activities. The original “Saw” also launched Halloween weekend, earning $18.3 million, and despite a C+ CinemaScore rating, cumed $55.2 million. “Saw 3D” received a B- appraisal.

Par’s “Paranormal 2,” which scored a B rating with moviegoers last weekend, saw a usual drop for the genre, even with a record-setting midnight take added to the film’s opening tally.

“Paranormal 2″ and “Saw 3D” already are highly profitable ventures for their respective studios, regardless of holdover potential. “Saw 3D” was budgeted at less than $20 million for Lionsgate and production partner Twisted Pictures, while “Paranormal 2″ cost just $3 million for Par.

Summit also has recouped its base cost with “Red,” with the studio responsible for an estimated $20 million after subsidies and foreign licensing fees. “Red” took in an estimated $8.9 million this weekend internationally for an overseas cume of $27.6 million. Pic’s worldwide totals stand at $86.5 million so far.

Film’s domestic hold helped it maintain the No. 3 spot, while Par’s “Jackass 3D,” also in its third frame, fell to No. 4 after last week’s second-place perf. “Jackass 3D” dropped 60%, with an estimated weekend gross of $8.4 million, boosting U.S. totals passed the $100 million benchmark.

Par kicked off its overseas rollout for “Jackass 3D” in six territories this weekend, including Germany and the Netherlands, grossing an estimated $4.2 million in foreign B.O. receipts.

Other domestic holdovers to continue their stay in the top 10 included Disney’s “Secretariat,” Sony’s “The Social Network” and a trio of contenders from Warner Bros.: “Hereafter,” “Life as We Know It” and “The Town.”

“Secretariat” fell 28% in its fourth outing, with $5.1 million and a cume of $44.8 million, while “The Social Network” followed closely in its fifth frame, down 35%, adding $4.7 million to its Stateside total of $79.7 million. Meanwhile, Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” outperformed both in its second week of wide release, landing in fifth place, with an estimated weekend take of $6.3 million for a less-than-stellar drop of 47%. Pic’s overall totals reached $22.2 million.

Warner’s remaining top players, “Life as We Know It” and “The Town,” saw steady holds, down 35% and 29%, respectively. “The Town” has played tops with adult auds since launching Sept. 17, with this weekend’s perf contributing an estimated $2 million to a cume of $87.6 million. “Life as We Know It” grossed $4 million for an estimated total to date of $43.5 million.

Among limited releases, Samuel Goldwyn’s “Welcome to the Rileys,” with James Gandolfini, Kristen Stewart and Melissa Leo, bowed at 10 locations for a modest per-screen average of $4,500. Pic launched solely in New York, Los Angeles and Boston, but is set to expand starting Nov. 12.

IFC’s French crime drama “Inspector Bellamy” bowed at two New York engagements, with an estimated $22,400 and a per-screen average of $11,200, while “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” from Music Box, opened at an aggressive 122 U.S. locations, earning $751,296. Pic, which reps the final installment in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, averaged $6,158 per screen.

Meanwhile, some overseas auds got an early look at Paramount/DreamWorks Animation 3D toon “Megamind,” launching in both Russia and the Ukraine for a weekend take of $7.3 million on 712 screens. Par hoped to benefit from Russian school holidays, which start today, as well as to help curb concerns of piracy in those markets. “Megamind” bows Stateside next weekend.

Another 3D toon to benefit from overseas school holidays was Universal’s “Despicable Me,” which added $22.8 million from 47 territories to a total $235.4 million internationally.

France was the toon’s top holdover market, where it rose a robust 117% because of tykes on vacation. The toon grossed there an estimated $6.9 million, followed by the U.K., which contributed $4.5 million, a successful counterprogramming bid against the market’s “Saw 3D” debut.

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