Weekend Briefing: Dulled 'Saw' Makes ''Final'' Cut
"If it's Halloween, it must be Saw," the ads for previous Saw movies declared, and this Halloween weekend is no exception, despite the series dulling with the previous entry, Saw VI. The seventh installment, Saw 3D, arrives as the sole new nationwide release on around 3,500 screens at 2,808 locations, marking the second-smallest release of the series, behind the first Saw.

Paranormal Activity 2 should bleed profusely after breaking the supernatural horror opening gross record last weekend, but will still be in the mix: Saw 3D grossed an estimated $1.7 million in its Thursday night preview at close to 2,000 sites, but Paranormal 2 was still tops for the day with nearly $2 million.

Last October, Saw VI rested on its laurels in the face of the surging Paranormal Activity, resulting in a series-low $14.1 million opening weekend. Simply announcing another Saw movie with no new hooks didn't cut it like it used to, especially when Saw V didn't leave fans buzzing like other entries. Prior to Saw VI, the Saw series had been remarkably consistent, with Saw II through Saw V each scoring $30 million plus openings, even if business had been waning.

After the Saw VI wake-up call, Saw 3D offers two hooks in its bid to reinvigorate the fan base. Most prominent is its presentation in "mind-blowing 3D" as its poster described it. The movie gets around 2,700 screens at 2,100 locations presenting it in the 3D illusion (3D accounted for 95 percent of the Thursday previews business). Saw 3D's focus on gory traps "coming alive" in 3D is reminiscent of The Final Destination, which debuted to a franchise-high $27.4 million. The other hook has been promoting Saw 3D as "the final chapter," in which the series' loose ends are supposed to be tied up. (The Final Destination was also pushed as the last entry in its franchise, but it performed well enough that another movie is in the pipeline; "never" rarely means never in horror.)

In Box Office Mojo's "when will you see it" reader polling, Saw 3D scored nearly 20 percent for "opening weekend." This was an improvement on Saw VI, which rated 17.7 percent for "opening weekend," but was lower than the other five Saw movies. Saw V was the closest at 21.8 percent.

Last Weekend:

'Paranormal Activity 2' Spikes to Horror High

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2009 - 'Michael Jackson' Strikes Top Spot

• 2008 -
'Zack & Miri,' 'Changeling' Contribute to Bleak Halloween

• 2007 - 'American Gangster' No. 1 with a Bullet

• 2006 - 'Borat' Bombards the Top Spot

• 2005 - Welcome to the Cluck: 'Chicken,' 'Jarhead' Top Weekend

• 2004 - 'Ray,' 'Saw' See Robust Starts

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'Saw 3D'