LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day than to watch college kids get slaughtered in a remake of "Friday the 13th"?
The revival of the venerable slasher franchise easily took the No. 1 spot at the North American box office this weekend, setting a new record for a horror opening with estimated sales of $42.2 million, distributor Warner Bros. Pictures said on Sunday.
The old mark was held by "The Grudge" with a $39 million debut in 2004. That film had a less-restrictive PG-13 rating, while the R rating for "Friday the 13th" ostensibly prevented fans under age 17 from buying tickets unless accompanied by an adult.
The new film is essentially a remake of the 1980 film that kicked off the horror series and eventually introduced a hockey-masked villain named Jason. His most recent appearance, in 2003's "Freddy vs. Jason," generated a $36.4 million opening.
Warner Bros., a unit of Time Warner Inc, predicted "Friday the 13th" would end up in the $48 million range once sales for the U.S. Presidents Day holiday on Monday were calculated.
The film was directed by German filmmaker Marcus Nispel, who shot the hit 2004 retread of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." Both films were produced by "Transformers" director Michael Bay, whose Platinum Dunes banner specializes in low-budget horror remakes.
Also new this weekend were Walt Disney Co's Isla Fisher comedy "Confessions of a Shopaholic" at No. 4 with a modest $15.4 million, and Columbia Pictures' Clive Owen thriller "The International" at No. 7 with $10 million.
Columbia, a unit of Sony Corp, also had a disappointment last weekend with "The Pink Panther 2" ($22 million to date). But the studio's surprise hit comedy "Paul Blart: Mall Cop" crashed through the century mark, tallying $110.5 million after an $11.7 million weekend.
Last weekend's champion, Warner Bros.' ensemble romance "He's Just Not That Into You," slipped to No. 2 with $19.6 million, taking its 10-day tally to $55.1 million. The comedy, based on a self-help book that was itself inspired by the TV show "Sex and the City," revolves around the lives and loves of various couples. The A-list lineup includes Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck and Scarlett Johansson.
The thriller "Taken" fell one place to No. 3 with $19.3 million in its third weekend. Liam Neeson plays a father in a race against time to prevent his kidnapped teen daughter's virginity from being taken by an Arab sheikh. The surprise success, produced by French filmmaker Luc Besson, has earned $77.9 million to date, and should hit $120 million, said distributor 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp.