Horror has a new champion as remake specialist Marcus Nispel's Friday The 13th (2009) scored the biggest launch weekend in the history of the genre thanks to an estimated $42.2m three-day haul, breezing past the previous mark set by The Grudge on $39.1m in October 2004.

That the number one launch was R-rated compared to The Grudge's less problematic PG-13 certification is all the more impressive and vindicates Warner Bros' decision to release this latest New Line bequest over Valentine's Day weekend.

While the Friday 13th release date offered a convenient opportunity on the calendar that could not be missed, the strategy to position Friday The 13th as an alternative to the mostly sunny complexion of the top ten was a counter-programming coup. Studio executives will take note, too, that the right kind of horror story can work as a date movie.

The industry will also be delighted by the year-to-date box office gross, which at approximately $1.44bn is already running 22% ahead of the same portion of 2008. As the record-breaking $1bn January has shown, audiences are finding cinema one of the most affordable ways of spending their entertainment dollars during the recession.

In fact there is every reason to suspect that even at this early stage 2009 will become the biggest box office year of all time, as the studios prepare to unleash upcoming sequels from Harry Potter, Twilight, Star Trek, Terminator, The Da Vinci Code, Transformers, Ice Age, Night At The Museum, Hannah Montana and The Fast And The Furious - not to mention Wolverine, Watchmen, G.I. Joe, the next Pixar release Up, Bruno, District 9 and James Cameron's 3D adventure Avatar.

Warner Bros/New Line's chick flick He's Just Not That Into You fell to second place on $19.6m for a respectable $55.1m after two weekends, while Fox's kidnap thriller Taken ranks third after three weekends on $77.9m.

Buena Vista's romantic comedy Confessions of A Shopaholic featuring Isla Fisher in her first major lead role opened below expectations in fourth place on $15.4m. Not everyone has the touch of Kevin James, whose first lead role in Sony's comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop is an unqualified success and coasted past $100m in its fifth weekend as $11.7m raised the tally to $110.5m. The picture ranks sixth.

Coraline from Focus Features continues to impress, adding $15.3m for $35.6m and ranking fifth after two weeks. Sony's banking thriller The International, which was the opening night film recently at the Berlinale, launched in seventh place on $10m.

Next weekend's wide releases are: comedy Tyler Perry's Madea Goes To Jail through Lionsgate; and Sony's comedy Fired Up.

Estimated Top 10 North America Feb 13-15, 2009
Film (Dist)/Int'l dist/Est wkd gross/Est total to date
1 (-) Friday The 13th (2009) (Warner Bros) PPI $42.2m -
2 (1) He's Just Not That Into You (Warner Bros) New Line Int'l $19.6m $55.1m
3 (2) Taken (Fox) EuropaCorp $19.3m $77.9m
4 (-) Confessions Of A Shopaholic (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $15.4m -
5 (3) Coraline (Focus Features) FFI $15.3m $35.6m
6 (5) Paul Blart: Mall Cop (Sony) SPRI $11.7m $110.5m
7 (-) The International (Sony) SPRI $10m -
8 (4) The Pink Panther 2 (Sony) SPRI $9m $22.3m
9 (7) Slumdog Millionaire (Fox Searchlight) Pathe International $7.2m $86.5m
10 (6) Push (Summit) Summit Int'l $6.9m $19.3m