The producers and distributor of the Saw movies had to be feeling pretty smug about the future of their franchise: They could put out a movie every October, get a free pass from studios too squeamish to challenge it for Halloween supremacy, and rake in enough money on the first weekend to make up for its precipitous drop in subsequent weeks. Considering the modest budget—the last one cost a little less than $11 million, $10.5 million of which was spent on rusting the implements of death—and generous returns ($56.7 million domestically on Saw V, before DVD), it’s been a reliable cash cow every year since 2004. But no one could have anticipated that Saw VI, the grisliest argument yet for the public option in health care, would run into the reverse bear trap that is Paranormal Activity, the ‘lil horror movie that could. After weeks of astounding per-screen numbers and a steady climb up the box office charts, Paranormal Activity finally enjoyed a week on top, bringing in $22 million with a still-robust $11,000 per screen average. Saw VI, meanwhile, finished a distant second with $14.8 million, which is less than half the opening take of the last entry. The only consolation for the Saw folks is that at least they didn’t stink it up like the other three openers: The animated adventure Astro Boy ($7 million, 6th place), Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant ($6.3 million, 8th place), and Amelia ($4 million, 11th place) all performed poorly, though the latter was on far few screens.

Despite a number of openings, things were mostly quiet on the limited release front, save for Antichrist, Lars von Trier’s latest provocation, which found enough genital mutilation enthusiasts to bring in a healthy $12,250 per screen average. The contemporary art satire (Untitled) did more modest business, with $6400 per screen, but both were considerably luckier than the widely panned Uma Thurman vehicle Motherhood, which took in a terribly anemic $1200 per screen. Of the arthouse films (or mainstream films, for that matter) currently in circulation, An Education continues to perform most robustly, leading all titles with $13,200 per screen.

More detailed numbers at Box Office Mojo.

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