‘Halloween’ slays ‘em at the theaters

Times Staff Writer

Hollywood slashed away at another box-office record as a new version of “Halloween” scared up a Labor Day weekend haul of $26.5 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales through Sunday, distributor MGM said.

Director Rob Zombie’s retelling of the 1978 slasher classic shattered the previous three-day record for the often-sluggish holiday period. The old record was set in 2005 by “Transporter 2,” which opened to $16.5 million. Labor Day is typically on the slow side for the movie business because fans have school, football and other pursuits on their minds.

The ninth film in the franchise focusing on mask-wearing killer Michael Myers also reversed a lengthy slump for the R-rated-horror category. This year’s horror flops included “Hostel: Part II” and “Captivity.”


“Only a couple weeks ago, people were talking about the death of the horror movie,” said Clark Woods, president of domestic distribution at MGM. “The genre sure wasn’t dead this weekend.” The movie was produced by Weinstein Co.’s Dimension Films.

The weekend’s No. 2 movie, according to studio estimates, was the raunchy teen comedy “Superbad,” which grossed $12.2 million in its third weekend for Sony Pictures.

Among the other major new films, the goofy ping-pong comedy “Balls of Fury,” from Universal’s Focus Features label, opened to $11.5 million, placing No. 3 for the weekend. (The movie opened Wednesday and now has grossed an estimated $17 million.)

20th Century Fox’s revenge thriller “Death Sentence,” starring Kevin Bacon, launched to a modest $4.1 million, placing No. 8 for the weekend.

“Halloween” is expected to gross about $31 million through today, but it already has the four-day-holiday record in the bag: “Transporter 2” grossed $20.1 million through Labor Day two years ago.

MGM and Weinstein opened the film extremely wide, at almost 3,500 theaters, in hopes of a hefty opening.


“We knew if we could get it loaded up, we could resonate with this audience,” Woods said. “This looked like a weekend that was wide open.”

Because they tend to draw young crowds, horror films are often front-loaded, racking up much of their business in the first weekend and then quickly flaming out.

Weinstein co-founder Bob Weinstein said the pairing of Zombie -- a cult favorite whose previous movies include “The Devil’s Rejects” and “House of 1,000 Corpses” -- with the enduring “Halloween” franchise tantalized horror audiences.

“What really drew people was the fact that it wasn’t a remake -- it was Rob’s version of the story, as if the original ‘Halloween’ had never been made,” Weinstein said.

A week ago, the movie industry topped $4 billion in domestic summer grosses for the first time ever.

Leading the way were sequels such as “Spider-Man 3,” “Shrek the Third” and “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and original hits including “Transformers” and the animated “Ratatouille,” which crossed the $200-million mark this weekend.


Research firm Media by Numbers expects the industry to end up with $4.15 billion in domestic ticket sales when the final summer tally is recorded today. On Hollywood’s calendar, the 18-week summer season runs from the first weekend in May through Labor Day.

Outside the top 10, Lions Gate’s Spanish-language heist comedy “Ladron Que Roba-Ladron” opened to a solid $1.5 million from only 340 theaters. And in its third weekend, the British comedy “Death at a Funeral” chugged along on strong word of mouth, grossing $1 million at 264 locations.

The fall season starts this week with Friday’s releases of “3:10 to Yuma,” a western starring Russell Crowe, and the action thriller “Shoot ‘Em Up,” with Clive Owen.