The fright film "The Messengers," about a city family that moves into a creepy haunted house in the country, debuted as the top weekend movie with $14.5 million in ticket sales.
Opening in second place was Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore's mother-daughter comedy "Because I Said So," the Universal release taking in $13 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
The latest in a string of horror hits from Sony, "The Messengers" bumped off the previous weekend's No. 1 flick, 20th Century Fox's "Epic Movie," which slipped to third place with $8.2 million, raising its 10-day total to $29.4 million.
It was a quiet weekend at theaters as many fans were preoccupied with Sunday's Super Bowl. The top 12 movies took in $71.6 million, down 12.5 percent compared to the same weekend last year.
"The Messengers" — starring Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller, John Corbett and Kristen Stewart — is the first English-language film from Hong Kong siblings Danny and Oxide Pang, whose horror tales include "The Eye."
It was the seventh-straight year that Sony had the No. 1 movie on Super Bowl weekend, many of them similar low-budgeted horror hits such as last year's "When a Stranger Calls." "The Messengers" was shot on a thrifty $16 million budget.
"This business model of creating these modestly budgeted horror films is just something that consistently works for Sony," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers.
Key Academy Awards contenders continued cashing in on their honors, including best-picture nominees "The Queen" (Miramax) with a $2.7 million weekend, "The Departed" (Warner Bros.) with $2.3 million and "Babel" (Paramount Vantage) and "Letters From Iwo Jima" (Warner Bros.) with $1.7 million each.
Paramount's "Dreamgirls," which led the field with eight nominations, pulled in $4 million, while foreign-language nominee "Pan's Labyrinth" (Picturehouse) remained a top 10 hit with $3.7 million.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Media By Numbers LLC. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Messengers," $14.5 million.
2. "Because I Said So," $13 million.
3. "Epic Movie," $8.2 million.
4. "Night at the Museum," $6.75 million.
5. "Smokin' Aces," $6.3 million.
6. "Stomp the Yard," $4.2 million.
7. "Dreamgirls," $4 million.
8. "Pan's Labyrinth," $3.7 million.
9. "The Pursuit of Happyness," $3.1 million.
10. "The Queen," $2.7 million.