On Halloween weekend, the studios gave a wide berth to the Lionsgate cash cow Saw III and helped the franchise to the biggest opening of the fall so far with a whopping/depressing $34.3 million. Given that the still-frugal budget is less than a third of that total, we're guessing that Lionsgate executives have the money to snort the finest cocaine off the finest hookers' asses if they're so inclined. Since the Saw movies have somehow increased their opening weekend take with each new outing, plans for a fourth are already in the works, no matter that it's going to take some creativity on the part of the filmmakers for that to make any sense at all.

In other openings, Focus Features' attempts to open the middling apartheid drama Catch A Fire in theaters nationwide backfired horribly, as the film opened outside the Top 10 at $2 million, with a dismal $1500 per screen average. Also bowing to disappointment was the controversial Death Of A President, which scored a mere $1800 per screen average on 91 screens, proving that the film has more currency as talk show fodder than something people actually want to see. That doesn't mean that leftist political films are not rousing people to theaters, however, as the Dixie Chicks documentary Shut Up & Sing opened with a healthy $12,700 per screen average in New York and Los Angeles. The Oscar contender Babel also started strong with a dominant $52,000 per screen average on 7 screens, though it will be interesting to see how far south that number goes once the film rolls out.

A detailed chart can be found over at Box Office Mojo.