Musical, Saw Cut A Box-Office Swath

Two months into the overcrowded but underviewed Fall film season and finally a movie other than that one about the spoiled chihuahua look to have actually been seen by audiences.

After two hugely popular TV movies drew mega-ratings, Disney was able to take the “High School Musical” franchise into box-office gold territory.

‘Senior Year’ G-rated peppy musical took in a whopping $42 million over its opening weekend – the three day haul was the biggest opening at the box-office since “The Dark Knight” back in mid-July and certainly the biggest opening for a musical ever.

Despite a notable 9% drop from Friday-Saturday, Disney’s marketing heft could push this into $150 million territory – unlikely to challenge current musical record holder “Chicago” ($170m) but certainly coming close. Reviews for the film were also generally positive (66% and 5.9/10 at RT, 55% and 4.9/10 at Metacritic).

The other big opener was “Saw V” with $30.5 million. The series sequels have consistently opened in the low $30 million range over the past five years and this was no different, albeit the smallest opening by the slimmest of margins. Reviews of this film (15% and 2.8/10 on RT, 19% and 5.9/10 on Metacritic) were worse than any of the previous four, which themselves scored mixed/negative reviews.

The third wide release was the much-delayed Ed Norton and Colin Farrell cop drama “Pride and Glory” which took in a mere $6.3 million in fifth place. In returning business, all of last week’s entries (“W.,” “Sex Drive,” “Secret Life of Bees”) fell around 50% aside from “Max Payne” which plunged 58%. Most films continue to tank this season with “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”, “Eagle Eye” and “Burn After Reading” the only films in the past two months to have crossed the $50 million mark.

On the limited release front though things are rosy. The Clint Eastwood-directed Angelina Jolie kidnap thriller “Changeling” scored a whopping $33,467 per screen average across fifteen screens, not far behind was the film spin-off of Logo’s hit African-American gay soap “Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom” which took in $32,200 on five screens.

On nine screens, Charlie Kaufman’s complex “Synecdoche, New York” scored a stellar $19,222 average, while drama “I’ve Loved You So Long” with an Oscar-calibre turn by Kristin Scott Thomas did quite well with $7,520. Not faring good were the Anne Hathaway & Patrick Wilson thriller “Passengers” with a $1,480 haul on 125 screens while this year’s re-issue of “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D” has worn out that film’s welcome with a mere $1,310 per screen haul.