LOS ANGELES - The horror tag-team "Freddy vs. Jason" had a killer weekend as the showdown between the bad guys of the "Friday the 13th" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street" franchises debuted with $36.4 million.
That was more than the combined total for the entire theatrical runs of the last installments in each franchise. Last year's "Jason X" - the 10th "Friday the 13th" flick - topped out at $12.6 million, while 1994's "Wes Craven's New Nightmare" - the seventh in that series - grossed $18.1 million.
The idea of pairing "Nightmare's" Freddy Krueger and "Friday's" Jason Voorhees had been kicked around since the early 1990s, so there was great fan anticipation. The combination revitalized both movie serials, whose endless sequels had become parodies of themselves.
"It worked because it's a brand new series. It's an original movie with name recognition," said Russell Schwartz, head of domestic marketing for "Freddy vs. Jason" distributor New Line Cinema. "We took it seriously and didn't turn it into `Scary Movie.' Not that it doesn't have humor, but we didn't want to go too campy."
"S.W.A.T.", the previous weekend's No. 1 movie, fell to second place with $18.6 million, bringing its 10-day total to $70.1 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall's Western, "Open Range," opened at No. 3 with $14.1 million. Directed by Costner, "Open Range" stars him and Duvall as free-range cattle grazers battling a rancher's thugs.
"Uptown Girls," starring Brittany Murphy as reluctant nanny to a precocious 8-year-old girl, premiered in fifth place with $11.2 million. The skateboarding adventure "Grind" opened at No. 12 with $2.6 million.
In limited release, "American Splendor" - starring Paul Giamatti in a film biography of cult comic-book writer Harvey Pekar - opened strongly with $156,000 in six theaters. The top winner at last winter's Sundance Film Festival, "American Splendor" expands to more theaters over the next few weekends.
The overall box office, which has slumped for much of summer, rose sharply this past weekend. The top 12 movies took in $132.1 million, up 33 percent from the same weekend a year ago.
Last week's power blackout in the Northeast and Midwest appeared to have little effect on overall movie attendance. Some movies, including "Freddy vs. Jason," did more business on Friday when power outages remained widespread than on Saturday, when power had been restored.
"It's hard to say the power failure had an effect," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "Perhaps the numbers would have been a bit stronger without it. But the net effect was nil from what I'm looking at, because this was a really good weekend."
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "Freddy vs. Jason," $36.4 million.
2. "S.W.A.T.", $18.6 million.
3. "Open Range," $14.1 million.
4. "Freaky Friday," $13.1 million.
5. "Uptown Girls," $11.2 million.
6. "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," $8.5 million.
7. "American Wedding," $8.2 million.
8. "Seabiscuit," $8.1 million.
9. "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over," $5.2 million.
10. "Bad Boys II," $3.2 million.