LOS ANGELES – Horror fans remained on the line for "When a Stranger Calls," a remake of the scary movie about a terrorized baby sitter that debuted at No. 1 with $22 million over the typically sluggish Super Bowl weekend.
Distributor Sony, whose Screen Gems banner released "When a Stranger Calls," said it was the best Super Bowl debut ever, beating the $19 million haul the studio's horror flick "Boogeyman" took in over the same weekend last year.
20th Century Fox's "Big Momma's House 2" fell to second place with $13.35 million, lifting its 10-day total to $45.4 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The weekend's other new wide release, Focus Features' romantic comedy "Something New," opened at No. 7 with $5 million.
With fans staying home Sunday for the big game, theaters were quiet, though key Academy Awards contenders including Focus Features' best-picture front-runner "Brokeback Mountain" benefited from last week's nominations.
"The Super Bowl is one of those television events like the Academy Awards that really dominates and monopolizes the audience," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
The top 12 movies took in $81.7 million, down 7 percent from Super Bowl weekend last year.
On the heels of its leading eight nominations, the cowboy romance "Brokeback Mountain" expanded to its widest release yet in 2,089 theaters and came in fourth with $5.7 million. The film has taken in $59.8 million domestically since debuting in December.
Among other best-picture nominees:
— Sony Pictures Classics' Truman Capote tale "Capote" nearly quadrupled its theater count to 1,239 and grossed $2.5 million, increasing its take to $18.2 million.
— Universal's assassination thriller "Munich," from director Steven Spielberg, expanded slightly to 1,151 theaters, grossing $1.9 million and raising its total to $43.1 million.
— Warner Independent Pictures' Edward R. Murrow drama "Good Night, and Good Luck" went into its widest release yet at 929 theaters and took in $1.5 million, pushing its total to $26.7 million.
"There's always a segment of the audience that wants to see all five films nominated for best picture," said Steven Friedlander, head of distribution for Warner Independent. "It's our American version of the running of the bulls at Pamplona."
The fifth best-picture contender, Lionsgate's ensemble drama "Crash," already is out on DVD.
Though shut out of the best-picture race, 20th Century Fox's Johnny Cash biography "Walk the Line" climbed back into the top 10 on the strength of acting nominations for Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon. "Walk the Line" was No. 9 with $3.4 million, raising its domestic total to $110.7 million.
The Weinstein Co. cashed in on best-actress nominations for Judi Dench in "Mrs. Henderson Presents" and Felicity Huffman in "Transamerica."
"Mrs. Henderson Presents," about a society dame who starts a nude stage revue in 1930s London, quintupled its theater count to 260 and grossed just under $1 million, raising its total to $3.2 million. "Transamerica," a road-trip tale about a man preparing for sex-change surgery, expanded to 101 theaters, up 19, and took in $509,000, pushing its take to $2.2 million.
"When a Stranger Calls" did not screen in advance for critics, the custom when the studio expects bad reviews. But fright flicks have a built-in audience of horror fans who pay little attention to reviews.
Here are estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "When a Stranger Calls," $22 million.
2. "Big Momma's House 2," $13.35 million.
3. "Nanny McPhee," $9.9 million.
4. "Brokeback Mountain," $5.7 million.
5. "Hoodwinked," $5.3 million.
6. "Underworld Evolution," $5.1 million.
7. "Something New," $5 million.
8. "Annapolis," $3.5 million.
9. "Walk the Line," $3.4 million.
10. "Glory Road," $3 million.