OMG! With a record-breaking debut, High School Musical 3: Senior Year rocked and rolled its way to a No. 1 finish at the box office this weekend, beating its freshmen rivals — a strong Saw V and a weak Pride and Glory — along the way.
Disney’s television transplant earned $42 million, according to Sunday’s estimates, giving it the best premiere ever for a movie musical — by a mile. The previous champ in this category, Mamma Mia!, banked $27.8 mil on its first weekend a few months ago, and last year’s Hairspray opened with $27.5 mil, by comparison. HSM3 also boasted the top opening of all time for a live-action G-rated movie, passing the $31.1 mil that Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert brought in earlier this year. Awesome!
Credit certainly goes to the kids (mostly girls), who came out in droves for HSM3, snatching up tickets in early sales and giving the film a solid A CinemaScore review. They should help HSM3 stay strong for at least another weekend, as no new major family-film competition is on the horizon.
One thing that is just around the bend: The Saw franchise’s impending anointment as the highest-grossing horror series in domestic box office history. It’s a feat that the fright flicks should achieve in the next few days, thanks to Saw V’s scarily good $30.5 mil debut this weekend — a sum that’s in line with the low-$30 mil-range openings of the past three Saw movies. To date, the franchise has banked $316.2 mil domestically, just a ripped-out fingernail shy of the $317.8 mil that the Friday the 13th series has accumulated via more than twice as many movies. Sure, that terrible CinemaScore grade of C hurts, but not nearly as bad as one of Jigsaw’s death traps. I mean, it’s basically expected that all the inexpensive Saw movies drop big time during their second frames, and any series that can stay this sturdy after five films is should be applauded.
Rounding out the top five were Max Payne (No. 3 with $7.6 mil on a steep 57 percent decline), Beverly Hills Chihuahua (No. 4 with $6.9 mil in its fourth frame), and the new Edward Norton-Colin Farrell cop drama, Pride and Glory (No. 5 with a disappointing $6.3 mil in 2,585 venues and a sorry B- CinemaScore grade from a crowd jam-packed with older people).
A number of standout limited releases fared better. Clint Eastwood’s latest period film, Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie, averaged $33,441 in 15 venues. Charlie Kaufman’s latest mindf*!#ck, Synecdoche, New York, averaged $19,214 on nine screens. And the gay-themed Logo TV adaptation Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom averaged $32,260 in five theaters.
Overall, this was the biggest October weekend ever (combined gross of all movies: $136 mil) and the first October weekend in history to see two films open in excess of $30 mil. Thus, the total box office was up 35 percent from the same frame a year ago (when Saw IV led the way, duh). So, yeah, lots of good news to go around, IMHO.