Sarah Michelle Gellar, star of TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has now proven herself as potent a draw on the big screen, as her horror thriller The Grudge premiered with a fantastic $40 million, according to studio estimates.
That makes The Grudge the third-best October opening ever, and, more interestingly, the third-best debut for a film with a woman in the starring role, behind only Lara Croft: Tomb Raider ($47.7 million) and Charlie's Angels ($40.1 million). Gellar has certainly had her share of box office disappointments (Scooby-Doo 2, anyone?), but The Grudge's opening shows that in the right material (i.e. something that appeals to Buffy fans), she's a force to be reckoned with.
After three weeks at No. 1, Shark Tale slipped to second place with $14.3 million, bringing its first-month total to a strong $136.9 million. Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez's Shall We Dance? increased its theater count by 33 percent, allowing it to rise one spot to No. 3 ($8.6 million). Friday Night Lights and Team America: World Police rounded out the top five, with $7 million and $6.6 million, respectively.
Back in seventh place was the Ben Affleck holiday comedy Surviving Christmas, which flopped with an embarrassingly low $4.5 million, despite Affleck's tireless promotion of the film. On a per-theater basis, it performed even worse than Gigli. Looks like movie fans don't like thinking about Christmas when they haven't even hit Halloween.