Saw IIItore into the competition with all the relish of an unleashed serial killer atthe weekend, dominating the North American box office with an estimated $34.3mthree-day haul that marked a record debut for the franchise.
Lionsgate's $10m horror sequel once again stars Tobin Bell as themaniacal Jigsaw whose ingenious games put his victims through their paces.Shawnee Smith also stars.
The studio will release Saw IV around Halloween 2007 and sources havesaid they envision five pictures in the series.
Hollywood made a killing overall as box office climbed for thefifth consecutive weekend. The top 12 pictures combined for $89.1m, up 2.4%against the same period last year when Saw II opened top on $31.7m.
Last weekend's champion The Prestige fell to third place on $9.6m for $28.8mthrough Buena Vista after two weekends, while The Departed held well in second place its fourthweekend and is on the way to $100m after adding $9.8m for $91.1m through WarnerBros.
Flags Of Our Fathersfell one to fourth in its second weekend and raised its domestic tally throughParamount by $6.4m to $19.9m.
Sony's awards season contender Running With Scissors climbed 19 places to tenth, adding $2.6mfor $2.9m in its second weekend.
FocusFeatures launched the Apartheid political thriller Catch A Fire outside the top 10 on a disappointing $2m from 1,306theatres. It was a different story for Paramount Vantage's torrid drama Babel, which was in toweringform as it grossed $365,801 from seven theatres.
TWC's Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up And Sing opened fairly well on $50,978 from fourtheatres in Los Angeles and New York.
Next weekend's wide releases are: Buena Vista's familycomedy The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause starring Tim Allen; Fox's comedy Borat starring Sacha Baron Cohen; and Paramount's animatedfeature Flushed Away, featuringthe vocal talents of Hugh Jackman and Kate Winslet.
Estimated Top Ten North America Oct 27-29, 2006
Film(Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimatedtotal to date
1 (-) Saw III (Lionsgate) Lionsgate $34.3m -
2 (2) The Departed (Warner Bros) WBPI/Initial $9.8m $91.9m
3 (1) The Prestige (Buena Vista) WBPI $9.6m $28.8m
4 (3) Flags Of Our Fathers (Paramount) WBPI $6.4m $19.9m
5 (4) Open Season (Sony) SPRI $6.1m $77.4m
6 (5) Flicka (Fox) Fox Int'l $4.9m $14.1m
7 (7) Man Of The Year (Universal) Morgan Creek $4.7m $28.9m
8 (6) The Grudge 2 (Sony) Mandate Pictures $3.3m $36m
9 (8) Marie Antoinette (Sony) SPRI $2.9m $9.8m
10 (29) Running WithScissors (TriStar) SPRI $2.6m $2.9m