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Audiences Brave 'Scary Movie'

The "Scary Movie" franchise has risen from the grave, with part three of the horror-spoof series opening as the top weekend flick with $49.7 million, the best October debut ever.

"Scary Movie 3" bumped the previous weekend's No. 1 movie, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," to second place with $14.7 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.

Premiering in third place with $14 million was the feel-good drama "Radio," starring Cuba Gooding Jr. in the real-life story of a mentally disabled man befriended by a high school football coach (Ed Harris).

Angelina Jolie - whose career had been on the skids with the flops "Original Sin" and "Life or Something Like It," plus a weak return on last summer's "Tomb Raider" sequel – delivered another turkey with "Beyond Borders."

A downbeat story of doomed romance between humanitarian-aid workers (Jolie and Clive Owen), "Beyond Borders" opened at No. 11 with just $2 million.

The overall box office soared, with the top 12 movies taking in $121.1 million, up 39 percent from the same weekend last year.

"Scary Movie 3" was a lesson in resurrecting a declining franchise. Created by the Wayans brothers, "Scary Movie" was a surprise hit in summer 2000, with a total gross of $157 million.

Their "Scary Movie 2" the following spring smacked of a rush job and did less than half the business of its predecessor.

Miramax, whose Dimension banner releases the "Scary Movie" flicks, tapped David Zucker, part of the team behind the disaster-film spoof "Airplane!" and the police parody "The Naked Gun," to direct "Scary Movie 3."

The audience was mainly younger than 25, but Zucker's involvement helped bring in older adults, Miramax co-founder Bob Weinstein said.

"David Zucker almost semi-invented this genre," Weinstein said. "You have those people who loved 'Airplane!' but said, ah, 'Scary Movie,' that's not for me, then going, 'Oh, Zucker's doing it.'"

Miramax also broadened the audience to younger teens by toning down the raunchy sight gags, holding "Scary Movie 3" to a PG-13 rating. The first two "Scary Movie" installments were rated R.

"The traditional wisdom is you don't mess with a franchise formula because you run the risk of alienating the core audience," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "In this case, the combination of retooling it and making it more accessible with a PG-13 rating was a perfect combination."

Zucker is returning to direct "Scary Movie 4," due out late next year, Weinstein said.

Disney's latest animated flick, "Brother Bear," debuted impressively in limited release, taking in $285,000 in two New York City and Los Angeles theaters. The movie, which features the voice of Joaquin Phoenix as an Inuit boy seeking to undo misdeeds that have transformed him into a bear, opens in wide release of about 3,000 theaters this coming weekend.

Also opening strongly in limited release were Jane Campion's dark murder thriller "In the Cut," starring Meg Ryan, and Gus Van Sant's "Elephant," featuring a group of unknown teen actors in a drama loosely inspired by the Columbine school shootings.

"In the Cut" took in $95,000 at six theaters. "Elephant," the top prize winner at last spring's Cannes Film Festival, grossed $90,000 in six theaters.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

  1. "Scary Movie 3," $49.7 million.
  2. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," $14.7 million.
  3. "Radio," $14 million.
  4. "Runaway Jury," $8.4 million.
  5. "Mystic River," $7.6 million.
  6. "The School of Rock," $6.5 million.
  7. "Kill Bill - Vol. 1," $6 million.
  8. "Good Boy!", $4.85 million.
  9. "Intolerable Cruelty," $3.6 million.
  10. "Under the Tuscan Sun," $2.2 million.

By David Germain