Saw beats sword

Call it the Halloween effect. Saw II, the follow-up to the goresome, twisted sleeper hit of last year sliced up the competition as it grabbed $30.5 million, opening stronger even than the original. It’s been a good autumn season for horror – the previous highest opening of these past weeks was The Exorcism Of Emily Rose, which took $30 million in its initial weekend.

Elsewhere in sequel-land, even the star power of Catherine Zeta Jones, Antonio Banderas and that mask couldn’t help The Legend Of Zorro. Despite decent returns overseas, the stateside release managed to make only $16.5 million, which won’t please studio Sony. The company reported a massive drop in profits this year, thanks to the lacklustre performance of big films such as Stealth.

Beneath the top two, there was even less to celebrate. Prime, a comedy starring Uma Thurman as a woman sleeping with the much younger son of her therapist (Meryl Streep), opened to only $6.4 million. Meanwhile, audiences were clearly not ready to embrace Nicolas Cage as a depressed weather reporter trying to put his life back on track in The Weather Man. The movie, directed by Pirates Of The Caribbean’s Gore Verbinski, managed a desultory $4.2 million.

Elsewhere, kiddie horse drama Dreamer held firm, passing the post on its second week with $6.3 million. Doom didn’t manage to hold on quite so well, dropping 74% to make just $4.1 million; its total now stands at $22.9 million so far. Charlize Theron’s crusading North Country took $3.7 million, while spooky drama Stay, starring Ewan McGregor continued to die on its feet, earning just $490,000,and bringing its total up to a less-than-impressive $3.35 million.