October 30, 2005

‘Saw II’ zaps ‘Zorro’ at U.S. box office

By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A sadistic serial killer named
Jigsaw carved up Zorro at the Halloween box office in North
America as moviegoers opted for the gruesome thrills of "Saw
II" over the light comedy of "The Legend of Zorro."

According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, "Saw II"
sold $30.5 million worth of tickets in its first three days
since October 28, well above industry expectations of a bow in
the $20 million range. Its little-heralded predecessor kicked
off with $18 million a year ago on its way to $55 million.

"The Legend of Zorro," reuniting Antonio Banderas and
Catherine Zeta-Jones in a sequel to the 1998 breakthrough "The
Mask of Zorro," followed at No. 2 with $16.5 million in its
first three days. The previous film started with $22 million
and finished with $94 million.

Two other films entered the fray, with modest results.
"Prime," a comedy starring Uma Thurman and Meryl Streep, opened
at No. 3 with $6.4 million, and "The Weather Man," starring
Nicolas Cage and Michael Caine, charted at No. 6 with $4.2

Last weekend's champion, the videogame-inspired sci-fi
thriller "Doom," collapsed to No. 7 with $4.1 million, taking
the 10-day haul for the $60 million film to $22.9 million.

Rounding out the top five were the equine fable "Dreamer:
Inspired By A True Story," with $6.3 million at No. 4 in its
second weekend; and "Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the
Were-Rabbit" at No. 5 with $4.4 million in its fourth.

"Saw II" stars Donnie Wahlberg as a corrupt cop who must
work with a cancer-ridden killer to free a group of people,
including the cop's son, from a grisly death in a booby-trapped
house. The R-rated film was directed by Darren Lynn Bousman,
who co-wrote the script with Leigh Whannell, the writer and
co-star of the original. It was released by Lions Gate Films, a
unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.


To the chagrin of critics, "The Legend of Zorro" turns
Banderas' swashbuckler into a family man having issues with his
wife (Zeta-Jones) and son (Adrian Alonso). As with the first
film, it was directed by Martin Campbell.

While its bow fell short of its predecessor's, distributor
Columbia Pictures was focused more on the international
picture. The film, capitalizing on All Saints' day in Europe
and Latin America and establishing a three-week buffer before
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," opened in 50 countries,
and totaled $27 million. The comparable figure for the previous
film in the same countries was $22.3 million.

The new film was No. 1 in 40 countries, and its best scores
were in France, Britain and Spain. Columbia is a unit of Sony.

"Prime" stars Thurman as a woman who falls in love with the
son (Bryan Greenberg) of her therapist (Streep). It played
mostly to older women, a demographic that failed to support
such recent entries as "North Country" and "In Her Shoes."
Along with "Doom, "Prime" was released by distributor Universal
Pictures, a unit of NBC Universal, which is controlled by
General Electric

"The Weather Man" stars Cage as a TV meteorologist in
Chicago. Distributor Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom,
described the $20 million melodrama as "a labor of love" for
the actor and director, Gore Verbinski.

"Dreamer: Inspired By A True Story" was released by
DreamWorks LLC, which is closely held. "Wallace & Gromit: The
Curse of the Were-Rabbit" was released by DreamWorks Animation