It was a record opening for Scorsese, whose previous best was $10.3 million with 1991's "Cape Fear." Scorsese's films usually debut in narrower release and gradually roll out to more theaters, but Warner Bros. decided to launch "The Departed" in wide release of 3,017 cinemas.
"I think the cast was the deciding factor and the playability of the movie," Warner distribution chief Dan Fellman said of the film, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson in a blood-soaked epic about moles infiltrating the Boston police and a crime gang.
"We had a special film here. We had the cast to drive it that way, and it worked out well," Fellman said.
New Line Cinema's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" prequel, examining the roots of maniac killer Leatherface and his cannibalistic family, pulled in $19.15 million in its first weekend. The movie had a $16 million production budget.
The previous weekend's top film, Sony's animated comedy "Open Season," fell to No. 3 with $16 million, raising its 10-day total to $44.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The weekend's other new wide release, Lionsgate's workplace comedy "Employee of the Month" with Jessica Simpson, Dane Cook and Dax Shepard, debuted in fourth place with $11.8 million.
The top-12 movies took in $102 million, up 16 percent from the same weekend last year. Overall movie attendance is up 3 percent over 2005.
Two films debuted strongly in limited release. New Line's suburban drama "Little Children" opened with $108,400 in five New York City and Los Angeles theaters.
Directed by Todd Field ("In the Bedroom"), "Little Children" features Kate Winslet, Jennifer Connelly and Patrick Wilson in a satiric look at the dark secrets underlying a neighborhood's complacent exterior. The film expands to nationwide release by early November.
ThinkFilm's sexual romp "Shortbus," directed by John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch"), opened with $120,650 at six theaters in five cities.
The unrated film features a cast of unknowns engaging in real sex as characters work out their sexual and emotional hang-ups at a bohemian salon in New York City. "Shortbus" expands to 10 more cities this weekend.
"This is what the fall movie season is supposed to be all about, with a tremendous variety of films and genres," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Departed," $27 million.
2. "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," $19.15 million.
3. "Open Season," $16 million.
4. "Employee of the Month," $11.8 million.
5. "The Guardian," $9.6 million.
6. "Jackass Number Two," $6.4 million.
7. "School for Scoundrels," $3.4 million.
8. "Gridiron Gang," $2.3 million.
9. "Jet Li's Fearless," $2.2 million.
10. "The Illusionist," $1.8 million.