A big-screen sequel to the Disney Channel TV movies, "High School Musical 3" had a record opening for a song-and-dance flick, easily beating the previous best of $27.8 million, set over the summer by "Mamma Mia!"
"High School Musical 3" and "Saw V" combined to send Hollywood revenues soaring. The top 12 movies took in $120.5 million, up 41 percent from the same weekend last year, when "Saw IV" led the weekend with a $31.8 million debut.
"It was good vs. evil at the box office, and both won," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Media By Numbers. "That combination of a G-rated and an R-rated movie, both chasing completely different audiences, proved to be a huge success."
"Saw V" pulled in about the same amount of cash over opening weekend as the last three flicks in the franchise about the diabolical Jigsaw, but it was the first that failed to finish at No. 1 since the original "Saw" debuted in third place in 2004.
The horror crowd was simply outnumbered by young fans and their parents turning up to see how senior year played out for the "High School Musical" cast - led by Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Lucas Grabeel and Corbin Bleu.
Mark Zoradi, president of Disney's motion-picture group, said the continuing story of lovebirds Troy and Gabriella played largely to the TV audience of young girls, though the big-screen version also broadened the "High School Musical" fan base.
"There's no question there's a female skew to it and a family skew to it," Zoradi said. "The movie is working not only to that core preteen audience, but also aging up a little bit and also bringing in some boys."
"High School Musical 3" also pulled in $40 million in 19 other countries where it has opened, among them Britain, Germany and Spain.
The weekend's other new wide release, the Warner Bros. police saga "Pride and Glory," opened weakly with $6.3 million to come in at No. 5. "Pride and Glory" stars Edward Norton and Colin Farrell in a tale of corruption among a family of New York City cops.
The previous weekend's No. 1 flick, 20th Century Fox's action tale "Max Payne," fell to third place with $7.6 million, raising its 10-day total to $29.7 million.
Clint Eastwood's "Changeling," starring Angelina Jolie as a single mom tormented by police handling the investigation of her missing son, got off to a healthy start with $502,000 in limited release. It played in 15 theaters to averaged a strong $33,441 a cinema, compared with $11,593 in 3,623 theaters for "High School Musical 3." Distributor Universal expands "Changeling" into nationwide release Friday.
Also in limited release, Sony Pictures Classics' "Synecdoche, New York" had a solid opening of $172,926 in nine theaters, averaging $19,214. It stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a writer staging a mammoth theater production that fills warehouses, and the directing debut of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman ("Being John Malkovich").
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "High School Musical 3," $42 million. 2. "Saw V," $30.5 million. 3. "Max Payne," $7.6 million 4. "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," $6.9 million 5. "Pride and Glory," $6.3 million 6. "The Secret Life of Bees," $5.9 million 7. "W.", $5.3 million 8. "Eagle Eye," $5.1 million 9. "Body of Lies," $4.1 million 10. "Quarantine," $2.6 million.