Hollywood served a timely reminder that film-going appears to be recession-proof as two mighty brands powered the box office to its biggest weekend of the last ten weeks.

The top 12 films climbed 40% against the same period last weekend after grossing approximately $120m and were led by Disney Channel's phenomenally successful High School Musical property, which until now had earned its stripes as a TV movie and DVD smash. The brand made a seamless transition to theatres as High School Musical 3: Senior Year launched at number one on an estimated $42m, overtaking Mamma Mia!'s $27.8m mark to set a new record for a musical. It also ranks as the third biggest October release behind Scary Movie 3 on $48.1m in 2003 and Shark Tale on $47.6m in 2004.

Kenny Ortega directed and Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale star in the story of students at a New Mexico school who dream of becoming entertainers. Predictably, Buena Vista said female audiences accounted for roughly three-quarters of ticket buyers, while two-thirds were families and around half were aged under 18.

By contrast the younger male demographic drove ticket sales on Saw V, the latest episode in Lionsgate' and Twisted Pictures' hit horror franchise that launched in second place on $30.5m. To date the five releases have amassed $316.2m and the Saw series is poised to overtake the eleven Friday The 13th films on $317.8m and become the biggest horror franchise in history within the next day or two.

Tobin Bell, Scott Patterson and Costas Mandylor and Betsy Russell star and David Hackl directed. As with High School Musical 3: Senior Year, a sequel is expected to be announced shortly based on these opening weekend results.

Two weeks after Body Of Lies, Warner Bros experienced another disappointing launch as the police drama Pride And Glory starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell debuted in fifth place on $6.3m. There were no other new releases to break into the top ten as most of the incumbents shunted down a few spaces. Fox's action romp Max Payne slipped two places to number three on $7.6m for $29.7m in its second weekend and Burna Vista's Beverly Hills Chihuahua tumbled two to four on $6.9m for $78.1m after four.

W, release through Lionsgate in North America, fell three places to seven and grossed $5.3m for $18.7m after two, while Fox Searchlight's The Secret Life Of Bees fell from three to six on $5.9m for $19.2m after the same amount of time. Body Of Lies ranks ninth on $30.9m after three and Sony's Quarantine ranks tenth on $28.8m, also after three.

In the limited arena, Universal launched Clint Eastwood's mystery Changeling starring the hotly tipped Oscar contender Angelina Jolie as a wronged mother in 20th place on $502,000 from 15, an excellent result with which to usher in wide expansion next weekend.

Paramount Vantage's period drama The Duchess added $1.2m from 873 screens for $11.2m and ranks 15th after six. Samuel Goldwyn Films' hit Christian drama Fireproof held firm in 11th place in its fifth weekend on $2.1m from 898 screens for $23.6m.

Further down the charts, SPC opened Philippe Claudel's French redemption drama I've Loved You So Long starring another awards season favourite, Kristin Scott Thomas, on roughly $361,000 from about ten theatres. Magnolia Pictures opened the Swedish horror tale Let The Right One In on four screens and reported a $48,000 gross

Next weekend's wide releases are: The Weinstein Company's comedy Zack And Miri Make A Porno starring Elizabeth Banks and Seth Rogen and directed by Kevin Smith; Freestyle Releasing's horror tale The Haunting Of Molly Hartley; and wide expansions of Universal's Changeling and Warner Bros' Guy Ritchie gangster romp RocknRolla with Gerard Butler.

Estimated Top 10 North America Oct 24-26, 2008
Film (Dist)/Int'l dist/Est wkd gross/Est total to date
1 (-) High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $42m -
2 (-) Saw V (Lionsgate) Mandate Int'l $30.5m -
3 (1) Max Payne (Fox) Fox Int'l $7.6m $29.7m
4 (2) Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Buena Vista) WDSMPI $6.9m $78.1m
5 (-) Pride And Glory (Warner Bros) NLI $6.3m -
6 (3) The Secret Life Of Bees (Fox Searchlight) Fox Int'l $5.9m $19.2m
7 (4) W (Lionsgate) QED Int'l $5.3m $18.7m
8 (5) Eagle Eye (DreamWorks-Paramount) PPI $5.1m $87.9m
9 (6) Body Of Lies (Warner Bros) WBPI $4.1m $30.9m
10 (7) Quarantine (Screen Gems) SPRI/various $2.6m $28.8m