Resident Evil: Extinction, distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment, triumphed in a threeway battle at the Japanese box office at the weekend.

The horror action-fest earned $5.21m, shooting down Toho-distributed nostalgic drama Always: Sunset On Third Street 2, which earned $4.77m.

Released on 331 and 330 screens respectively, per screen averages were strong at $16,027 and $14,463.

The third contender was new release teen drama Sky Of Love (KoiZora), which took $4.15m.

Last week's number one opener Crows: Episode 0 dropped to fourth with $2.56m. Both films are produced by TBS and distributed by Toho. Hairspray, distributed by GAGA, came fifth.

Fuji TV-Toho's Hero, the year's most successful domestic title, fell to sixth with a current grand total of just under $70m.

The Resident Evil franchise has its roots in Japan where it goes under the title Biohazard, the name of the original zombie shoot-em-up PlayStation hit designed by Shinji Mikami in 1996. The latest entry's opening weekend topped the previous sequel's $4.46m.

The continuing story in the 1950s-set Always saga far outgrossed part one, which opened exactly two years ago with $1.88m. The original had legs, earning $28.23m and winning Best Picture at the Japan Academy Awards.

The weekend caught the industry by surprise as one of the bigger frames of the year, with the top four films earning a combined $16.68m. This was despite a lack of Hollywood stars and a calendar slot with no special significance other than a Saturday national holiday.

The total is in line with other big weekends of the year, such as July 21-22's Monkey Magic, Pokemon and Harry Potter installments totaling $22.9m and May 26-27's Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End and Spider Man 3 earning $14.4m.