Despite a steep decline, the tween musical won a slow Halloween weekend at the box office, putting a knife into ''Zack and Miri Make a Porno,'' ''Changeling,'' and ''The Haunting of Molly Hartley''
Credit: John Bramley

Halloween weekend started out with a true fright at the box office, as people were spooked away from all the movies in the multiplex and presumably hearty holdovers suffered huge declines. But as the trick-or-treaters came in from the chilly night and their candy comas set in, High School Musical 3: Senior Year rebounded to win its second straight weekend, and Zack and Miri Make a Porno and Clint Eastwood’s Changeling also fared well enough. The Haunting of Molly Hartley, however, scared up little business.

In the end, some familiar films dominated the top of the chart. HSM3 banked $15 mil, according to Sunday’s estimates. Despite dropping 64 percent from its winning opening, the tween musical’s 10-day sum now stands at $61.8 mil. Still, it should be gone by next weekend, when Madagascar 2 hits theaters. Also hanging on despite heavy losses was Saw V (No. 3), which brought in $10.1 mil — a heart stopping 66 percent drop from its big bow a week ago.

But among new movies, Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno (No. 2) fared best, grossing $10.7 mil on the weekend. While not very impressive, that total is on par with the $10.1 mil that the lowbrow auteur’s previous release, Clerks II, made in its first frame more than two years ago, and, actually, it’s Smith’s second-best bow ever (after Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back‘s $11 mil debut). Not ditto for star Seth Rogen, who has grown accustomed to $20 mil-plus premieres lately (like Pineapple Express‘ $23.2 mil, Superbad‘s $33.1 mil, and Knocked Up‘s $30.7 mil), although at least he avoids the embarrassment of a true flop.

Buoyed by a sweet A- CinemaScore review from a substantially older audience, Changeling (No. 4) capitalized on being the only grown-up film in the marketplace by bringing in $9.4 mil, a sum that’s more than double the $3.9 mil that star Angelina Jolie’s last drama, 2007’s A Mighty Heart, earned on its first weekend. And, hey, with the second-, third-, and fourth-place movies all banking nearly the same number of bucks, Changeling could conceivably move up in the weekend rankings when the final numbers come out on Monday.

Rounding out the top five was The Haunting of Molly Hartley, with a weak $6 mil take. Boo, indeed!

Overall, the cumulative box office was down more than 36 percent from the same frame a year ago, when Halloween fell on a less financially intrusive Wednesday and American Gangster and Bee Movie led the way. And now it’s time for me to buzz off.

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