Halloween, which came on a Friday night this year, gave the box office the willies, as the usual Friday-night dating crowd searched out other entertainment. (The last time Halloween fell on a Friday -- in 2003 -- there were no new releases. Only Lionsgate's horror flick Saw 5escaped the box office massacre, taking in $3.1 million on Friday and $10.1 million for the weekend, to place third. Another horror flick, The Haunting of Molly Hartley,took in $6 million to come in fifth. Overall the box office plunged 36 percent below the comparable weekend a year ago. High School Musical 3: Senior Year, which grossed only $1.7 million on Friday, came racing back on Saturday to earn $8.2 million and finished the weekend with an estimated gross of $15 million, putting it again at the head of the class. In second place was the Weinstein Co.'s Zack and Miri Make a Porno, >directed by Kevin Smith, which rose a stunning 124 percent from Friday to Saturday, winding up with $10.7 million. Clint Eastwood's Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie moved into general release on Friday, posting a solid $9.4 million. It grossed $5,085 per theater -- the best per theater results of any of the new films. In fact the competition for second place between Saw, Zack and Miri,and Changelingwas so close that any one of them could end up in the place position when final results are announced later today. "I'm calling this a dead heat, Universal distribution chief Nikki Rocco told Daily Variety.

{@@@[email protected]@@}{@@@[email protected]@@}The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Exhibitor Relations:

1. High School Musical 3: Senior Year, $15 million; 2. Zack and Miri Make a Porno, $10.7 million; 3. Saw V, $10.1 million; 4.Changeling, $9.4 million; 5. The Haunting of Molly Harvey, $6 million; 6.Beverly Hills Chihuahua, $4.7 million; 7. The Secret Life of Bees, $4 million; 8.Max Payne, $3.7 million; 9. Eagle Eye, $3.4 million; 10. Pride and Glory, $3.3 million.


Like most horror movies aimed at teenagers, The Haunting of Molly Hartleywas not screened for critics. They did get a look at it with everyone else over the weekend and have now turned in the expected horrible notices. Jeannette Catsoulis in the New York Timesbegins her review by calling the movie "unexpectedly cynical" and ends it by calling it "tame and inoffensive." In the Los Angeles Times Sam Adams refers to it as "a dead-on-arrival thriller that resolutely fails to come to life." But Chelsea Bain in the Boston Globegives it a mixed report card, writing that it is "dull at worst and surprisingly spooky at best." And Tony Wong sums up in the Toronto Star: "If you get past the retro Nancy Drew title, this is a worthwhile effort."


Overseas, where Halloween attracts few celebrants -- a possible exception is the U.K. -- the latest James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace took a quantum leap over its rivals, earning $38.6 million in just three countries, the U.K., France and Sweden. The U.K., where most of the Bond film was produced, accounted for two-thirds of that total -- $25.3 million, a record for a three-day weekend. Playing on 1,150 screens, the movie averaged a whopping $22,000 per screen. The movie is scheduled to expand to a total of about 60 countries next weekend, before arriving in the U.S. in two weeks. Meanwhile, Mamma Mia! continued to show its sturdy legs,as it added $3.4 million to its total, making it the third-biggest earner of the year, afterIndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Dark Knight.


Producer John Daly, whose films garnered 13 best-movie Oscars over 40 years, died of cancer Friday in Los Angeles at age 71. In the late '60s, Daly teamed with actor David Hemmings to form the Hemdale Group, which initially managed several rock bands that became part of the so-called British Invasion, including Yes and Black Sabbath. In 1971, Daly bought out Hemmings's interest in the company and moved it into films and stage productions. Within a few years it had become the leading independent film studio in Britain, turning out more than 100 films. He is the only independent film producer who ever won back-to-back best-picture Oscars, when Platoonwon in 1986, followed by The Last Emperor in 1987.