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'High School Musical' Cuts Footloose with 'Saw'

by Brandon Gray
A scene from High School Musical 3.
 

 
October 27, 2008

After weeks of largely tepid business, the debuts of High School Musical 3: Senior Year and Saw V greased the way to one of the highest-grossing October weekends on record. Overall box office was up more than 30 percent from the previous weekend and from the same timeframe last year.

High School Musical 3 leapt to $42 million on approximately 5,900 screens at 3,623 theaters, breaking the record for highest-grossing musical opening. That's the third time that the record has fallen for the potentially infectious genre within the past year and a half, following Hairspray and Mamma Mia!, each with over $27 million. According to distributor Walt Disney Pictures' exit polling, 74 percent of High School Musical 3's audience was female, 54 percent was under 18 years old, and 63 percent was parents and their children.

Though there are no historical precedents for sequels to made-for-television movies making it on the big screen, it was always clear that High School Musical 3 would come on strong out of the gate, partly portended by the initial rabidness fans displayed for Disney's Hannah Montana concert movie earlier this year. The High School Musical franchise proved tremendously successful in its cable television runs (bigger than Hannah Montana), music sales and other media since its early 2006 debut. With the new movie, Disney stuck with the formula of song and dance and relatable themes for young people stemming from a sanitized Grease-like storyline. This time, though, the advertising pushed a grander scale and the final romp for the series' characters.

Perennial October horror franchise, Saw, was still sharp in its fifth outing. Saw V nabbed $30.1 million on around 4,100 screens at 3,060 sites. While it ranks as the fourth highest-grossing start for a Saw movie, down five percent from Saw IV, it played on about 12 percent fewer screens than the last two movies. Though the franchise has been fading since the second movie, Saw stands as one of the highest grossing horror series on record, with $316 million thus far. What's more, it's been one of the most consistent as horror sequels rarely have good audience retention.

The weekend's other new nationwide release, Pride & Glory, opened with a soft $6.3 million at 2,585 venues, well below We Own the Night from last October among similar movies. A typical-looking cop drama was displayed in Pride & Glory's marketing, and the sub-genre has seen a fair share of action recently (let alone on television), making it a less compelling theatrical choice for potential moviegoers.

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