"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," the remake of the 1974 horror tale that helped launch the modern slasher genre, debuted as the top weekend movie with $29.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Quentin Tarantino's bloody vengeance saga "Kill Bill - Vol.1," the previous weekend's No. 1 movie, slipped to second place with $12.5 million, lifting its 10-day total to $43.3 million.
The John Grisham court thriller "Runaway Jury," with Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, John Cusack and Rachel Weisz, opened in third place with $12.1 million.
After a strong debut in limited release a week earlier, Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River" - starring Sean Penn and Tim Robbins -
expanded to wide release and came in at No. 5 with $10.36 million.
Playing in 3,016 theaters, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" averaged a strong $9,649 a cinema, compared to a $4,298 average in 2,815 theaters for "Runaway Jury" and a $7,059 average in 1,467 cinemas for "Mystic River."
Cate Blanchett's "Veronica Guerin," in which she plays a real-life Irish journalist slain during an investigation of Dublin druglords, bombed with $603,000 in 472 theaters, averaging just $1,278.
In limited release, "Sylvia" - Gwyneth Paltrow's film biography of suicidal poet Sylvia Plath - opened strongly with $56,132 in three theaters in New York City and Los Angeles, averaging $18,711.
"Pieces of April," a Sundance Film Festival favorite that stars Katie Holmes and Patricia Clarkson, debuted with $48,000 in six New York City and Los Angeles theaters for an $8,000 average.
The overall box office soared, with the top 12 movies grossing $105.3 million, up 43 percent from the same weekend last year, when the horror tale "The Ring" was the top movie with $15 million.
"The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" stars Jessica Biel as one of a group of friends stranded in a Texas town, where they are preyed on by a clan of cannibals, including chainsaw killer Leatherface.
In its first weekend, the movie took in three times its $9.5 million production budget. Three-fourths of the audience was younger than 25, while the crowds were evenly split between men and women.
Biel's presence helped draw women into a gory genre flick that more typically appeals to men, said Russell Schwartz, head of domestic marketing for New Line, which released "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."
"But also, women love to be scared, perhaps more than men," Schwartz said. "It's only the gory part that helps turn off the female audience, not so much the scary part."
"Runaway Jury" played to an older audience, with 82 percent of viewers age 25 and older, said Bruce Snyder, head of distribution for 20th Century Fox, which released the movie.
The opening-weekend gross came in on the low side of the studio's projections, but Snyder said movies aimed at older audiences often stick around longer at the box office.
"Adults don't necessarily run out to see a movie the first weekend," Snyder said. "We hope it'll be around for a good long time."
This past week, Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" inched past $300 million, the year's second movie to cross that mark, after Disney-Pixar's "Finding Nemo." It was the first time one studio had two movies topping $300 million domestically in a single year.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North
American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final
figures will be released Monday.
- "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre," $29.1 million.
- "Kill Bill - Vol. 1," $12.5 million.
- "Runaway Jury," $12.1 million.
- "The School of Rock," $11.3 million.
- "Mystic River," $10.36 million.
- "Good Boy!", $9 million.
- "Intolerable Cruelty," $6.9 million.
- "Out of Time," $4.1 million.
- "Under the Tuscan Sun," $3.4 million.
- "The Rundown," $2.8 million.
By David Germain