"Texas Chainsaw 3D" pulled a stunner at the domestic box office this weekend, as the blood-drenched monster rehash massacred its rivals, taking in $23.3 million in its first three days of release.
Horror fans -- largely overlooked during the holiday season when awards and family fare rules at the multiplexes -- turned out in force and enabled the tool-wielding Leatherface to slice up “Django Unchained,” “Les Miserables” and “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” which fell from the top spot after three weeks.
The Weinstein Company’s “Django” took in $20 million to finish second and crossed the $100 million mark in the process. Quentin Tarantino’s slave saga has taken in $106.3 million since opening on Christmas Day.
“The Hobbit” was third with $17.5 million and Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth epic raised its domestic total to $263 million for Warner Bros. With more than $561 million from overseas, the first installment of the trilogy has taken in more than $820 million worldwide.
“Les Miserables” was fourth with $16.1 million. The star-studded musical also crossed the century mark and has brought in more than $103 million for Universal since its Christmas Day debut. The film, which stars Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, added $14.5 million from 17 foreign markets over the weekend. It has taken in $81 million overseas and now has a worldwide total of $184.6 million.
Fox's Billy Crystal-Bette Midler family comedy "Parental Guidance," another Christmas Day opener, upped its overall domestic total to nearly $53 million, taking in $10.1 million.
The performance of "Texas Chainsaw" is a coup for Lionsgate, which spent $20 million to market and promote the picture, produced by Millennium Pictures for roughly $20 million. It blasted past pre-release expectations, which had it at around $15 million for the weekend.
Pent-up demand from underserved horror fans is becoming a post-holiday tradition. Paramount pulled off a similar shocker last year, when it opened exorcism tale "The Devil Inside" to $33 million in the first week in January. The last horror film in wide release was "Paranormal Activity 4," which opened on Oct. 19.
Opening an R-rated horror film so soon after the holidays “is kind of a calculated risk,’ Lionsgate president of film distribution Richie Fay told TheWrap Sunday, “but this time it paid off. I think the audience -- particularly fans of this genre -- was ready for something other than holiday fare.”
"Texas Chainsaw" defied critics and word-of-mouth. Opening night audiences gave the splatter fest just a "C+" CinemaScore. It got a big boost from its Friday performance, which included a number of midnight Thursday screenings, and totaled $10.2 million. Over the three days in 2,654 theaters, "Chainsaw" averaged $8,785 per location.
The "Chainsaw" audience was largely young women, with 52 percent female and 64 percent under 25. The presence of musical artist Trey Songz (photo, left) was a lure. One of three attendees under 25 said he was primary reason they went to see the movie.
John Luessenhop directed and Alexandra Daddario, Tania Raymonde and Scott Eastwood starred in "Chainsaw," which is the seventh installment -- and first in 3D -- of the horror franchise that debuted in 1974.
Paramount’s Tom Cruise action film “Jack Reacher” took in $9.3 million to raise its overall domestic total to nearly $65 million after three weeks. "Jack Reacher" opened in another 15 foreign markets this weekend, and took in a total of $22.3 million from 47 countries to raise its international total to $55.6 million.
The same studio’s Barbra Streisand-Seth Rogen comedy “The Guilt Trip” took in $4.5 million and is at $31.2 million after three weeks.
"Promised Land," which Focus Features expanded to 1,600 locations from 25 last weekend, barely cracked the top ten with $4.3 million. Despite featuring big name actors such as Matt Damon and John Krasinski, the environmental drama about a natural gas company exploiting a small town is struggling to establish a foothold in a crowded field of Oscar contenders.
For the record: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that “Texas Chainsaw" was the eighth film in the franchise, which was launched in 1974.