See ya, Saw. According to early estimates from Hollywood.com Box Office, the new big kahuna in horror is officially Paranormal Activity, which conjured $22 million in its first weekend with a full wide release, clawing its way to the top of the box office after a full month in theaters. To date, the micro-budgeted phenom has pulled in $62.5 million; with Halloween still a week away, Paramount could easily see total grosses edging past $100 million, a benchmark that a certain venerable torture porn franchise has never reached.
Indeed, Saw VI never stood a chance, banking just $14.8 million for second place and the worst opening in the Saw franchise’s history — in fact, it’s just half the $30 million that Saw V opened to one year ago. Expect a lot of talk in the coming week about torture porn dying a slow, agonizing death at the hands of a plucky upstart that gets audiences goosed not with baroque blood and gore, but by old fashioned tension, suspense, creepy shadows, and bumps in the night.
In fact, when final numbers come in tomorrow, Saw VI may even drop behind Where the Wild Things Are, which pulled in an estimated $14.4 million in its second weekend. That’s a steep 56 percent drop from its debut, a pretty clear indication that director Spike Jonze’s meditation on childhood is not inspiring the kind of repeat viewing from children that drives the box office for most family movies. Still, with $53.9 million in the bank, the film is performing far better than many in Hollywood had expected.
It’s certainly stronger than any of the films that opened this weekend. The sci-fi animated film Astro Boy sputtered with $7 million and sixth place, yet another in a long line of failed attempts to make feature animation aimed directly at boys. Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant may have been advertised as the beginning of “The Cirque du Freak saga,” with with just $6.3 million for eighth place, it may actually be the end. And Amelia could not recover from a storm of bad reviews, crashing at 11th place with a tiny $4 million in 818 theaters. Overall, box office was down roughly 10 percent from last year, when the unrelenting behemoth known as High School Musical 3 tormented audiences nationwide.