'Saw III' Carves Up Competition With Jigsaw's Biggest Weekend Yet

Third installment grosses $34.3 million; 'The Departed' holds steady at #2.

The Top Five

#1 "Saw III" ($34.3 million)

#2 "The Departed" ($9.8 million)

#3 "The Prestige" ($9.6 million)

#4 "Flags of our Fathers" ($6.3 million)

#5 "Open Season" ($6.1 million)

Who needs stinking critics anyway? That's what the makers of "Saw III" -- a film the studio chose to not screen for critics -- are probably saying as they celebrate the biggest opening yet for the very healthy horror franchise.

It's not supposed to happen this way. Franchises usually diminish in box-office strength as they age, but there's something that's working about the "Saw" formula with the second flick out-grossing the first and now the third out-grossing both of its predecessors. Audiences certainly don't seem to be tired of the ruthless Jigsaw and his gruesome ways just yet as the third installment grossed $34 million in receipts, dominating the competition.

Indeed there was a sizeable gap between first and second place with "The Departed" and "The Prestige" running neck-and-neck for the next two spots, each earning more than $9 million. That's three weekends in a row that Scorsese's gang of cops and robbers hold the runner-up slot. Its tally is up to $91 million, a great number considering it only took the top spot for a single weekend.

Looking further down the charts, "The Queen" continues to impress in a limited run, earning $1.9 million in only 152 theaters. A surefire Academy Award nomination for Helen Mirren looks to make this one a flick that will stick around all through the fall. Meanwhile another Oscar hopeful, "Catch a Fire" earned about the same as Mirren's royal story ($2.1 million). The bad news? "Catch a Fire" is in almost 10 times as many theaters.

Enough About the Movies ... How Did We Do?

The debut of our bold trio of would-be Nostradamuses had the two resident MTV "experts" hanging their head in shame (and yeah, one of them is me). Yes, all three predictors correctly guessed that "Saw III" would come in first in its opening frame -- you didn't exactly need a subscription to Variety to guess that one -- but it was "Hostel" director Eli Roth who proved to be nearly clairvoyant with his only slightly off the mark guess of a $35 million tally (see [article id="1544205"]"Projection Booth: 'Saw III' Will Leave All Others A Bloody Mess"[/article]).

Meanwhile, 62 percent of those of you who participated in our movie poll nailed it by predicting "Saw III"'s supremacy. We won't comment on the 11 percent of you who thought "Catch a Fire" would win the weekend.

In Perspective

By the time you get to the third film in a horror franchise, you can usually tell the trajectory of the series (i.e. "Saw" is looking good). Here's how other storied scary sagas did in their third time trying to spook audiences:

  • "Friday the 13th Part III" (1982) $36.7 million

  • "Halloween III" (1982) $14.4 million
  • "A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" (1987) $44.8 million
  • "Poltergeist III" (1988) $14.1 million
  • "Child's Play 3" (1991) $14.9 million
  • Next Week

    Three legitimate contenders for the box-office crown are set to open this Friday with the animated flick "Flushed Away" going toe-to-toe with "The Santa Clause 3." Meanwhile, comedy of a much more R-rated nature comes by way of "Borat."

    Check out everything we've got on "Saw III" and "The Departed"

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