The crime thriller "Nightcrawler" starring Jake Gyllenhaal and the horror flick "Ouija" essentially tied for first in a traditionally slow Halloween weekend at the box office.
Both films grossed an estimated $10.9 million in the U.S. and Canada. With Halloween falling on a Friday, total box-office receipts of $96 million were down about 24.9% compared with the same weekend last year, when Halloween fell on a Thursday, according to research company Rentrak.
In 2008, the last time Halloween fell on a Friday, total box-office receipts fell 37% compared with the same weekend in 2007.
"Nightcrawler," which cost $8.5 million to make, met distributor Open Road Films' expectations.
"The movie is dark and complex and we thought it was a great opportunity to release it on Halloween," said Jason Cassidy, chief marketing officer of Open Road Films. "We think it really paid off."
The film follows Lou Bloom (Gyllenhaal), a self-taught man who finds work as a crime-scene news videographer in Los Angeles. It was produced and financed by Bold Films and marks the directing debut of Dan Gilroy, who also wrote the screenplay.
Since the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in early September, critics have lauded Gyllenhaal's performance as well as the film's look at nightlife in L.A. As of Sunday, it posted a 94% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The film attracted largely older, male crowds: An estimated 66% of moviegoers were older than 25. Men made up 56% of the audience.
The film did well in L.A., San Francisco and New York. Gyllenhaal surprised audiences with appearances at special early screenings in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., last weekend to promote the film.
"His star power really helped drive the picture," Cassidy said.
"Ouija," Universal Pictures' PG-13 film, cost just $5 million to make and did better than expected in its sophomore weekend.
The film, which opened to $20 million last weekend, follows a group of friends who look to the board after one friend is killed in an accident.
Blumhouse Productions and Michael Bay's Platinum Dunes produced the film, which is based on the Hasbro game. Its cumulative domestic gross is about $35 million to date.
"Usually horror films don't hold as well but I think -- believe it or not, it never happens -- we got a little help from Halloween," said Nikki Rocco, Universal's head of distribution. "I was amazed."
Final grosses will be tallied on Monday, determining official rankings for "Nightcrawler" and "Ouija."
The World War II film "Fury" rounded out the top three, adding $9.1 million to its domestic gross. The film, starring Brad Pitt, has pulled in $60.4 million to date.
David Fincher's "Gone Girl" held steady at No. 4, falling just 20% from last week. The 20th Century Fox film added $8.8 million, raising its total gross to $136.6 million.
Fox's animated film "The Book of Life" finished at No. 5 with $8.3 million. It has pulled in about $40.5 million to date.
Halloween was grim for newcomer "Before I Go to Sleep." Despite the box office allure behind stars Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth, the film, distributed by Clarius Entertainment, premiered at No. 14 with a mere $2 million.
Based on the book by S.J. Watson, the British sci-fi thriller follows a woman (Kidman) who wakes up every day with no memory after suffering an accident. As truths about her life emerge, she begins questioning everything she thinks she knows, including her husband (Firth) and doctor.
Lionsgate's re-release of "Saw" fell short of the studio's $2-million expectations, grossing just $650,000. The studio announced in August that it would bring back the horror flick for one week to celebrate its 10th anniversary.
The James Wan-directed film follows two men who wake up in the lair of a demented serial killer named Jigsaw and are forced to navigate a series of elaborate traps that require them to do the unthinkable to survive.
For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h