LOS ANGELES – The killer of the "Saw" franchise may be dead, but his sadistic spirit lives on.
Lionsgate's "Saw IV" led the weekend box office with $32.1 million, maintaining the horror franchise's position as a Halloween perennial, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Debuting at No. 2 was Disney's "Dan in Real Life," a romance starring Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche and Dane Cook that took in $12.1 million.
Overall Hollywood revenues declined for the sixth-straight weekend, though business was off only a fraction compared to the same weekend last year. The top-12 movies took in $86.1 million, down 2 percent, better results than the previous weeks, when business had fallen significantly more.
The results for "Saw IV" were on par with the debut of "Saw III," which pulled in $33.6 million over the same weekend last year. Since the original low-budget "Saw" became an out-of-nowhere fright sensation in 2004, Lionsgate has released a new chapter each October, all hits.
"I would expect to see `Saw V' next year, `Saw VI' the year after that and `Saw VII' the following year if they can keep it up," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. "There's just something inherently gruesome and compelling about these movies. I don't know what that says about society in general, but it certainly works at the box office."
"Saw IV" features post-mortem horrors concocted by the fiendish killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, seen in flashbacks), whose autopsy turns up a cassette tape in his entrails that leads the cops into a new snare of torture puzzles the madman left behind.
"Dan in Real Life" was the prime choice for the date crowd. The movie stars Carell as a widower raising three daughters who falls for his brother's new girlfriend (Binoche) during a family reunion.
In narrower release, Roadside Attractions' "Bella" opened solidly with $1.3 million. The film stars Eduardo Verastegui as a former soccer player who hooks up with a pregnant waitress (Tammy Blanchard).
Thinkfilm's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead," directed by Sidney Lumet ("Dog Day Afternoon," "Network"), opened strongly in limited release at two New York City theaters with $73,500. The film, which gradually expands into nationwide release through November, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke as brothers in financial straits who plot to rob their parents' jewelry store.
A high-profile documentary, Sony Pictures Classics' "Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains," had a poor debut, taking in just $10,573 at seven theaters. The film from director Jonathan Demme ("The Silence of the Lambs") follows the former president during a tour to promote his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid."
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. "Saw IV," $32.1 million.
2. "Dan in Real Life," $12.1 million.
3. "30 Days of Night," $6.7 million.
4. "The Game Plan," $6.3 million.
5. "Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married?", $5.7 million.
6. "Michael Clayton," $5 million.
7. "Gone Baby Gone," $3.9 million.
8. "The Comebacks," $3.45 million.
9. "We Own the Night," $3.4 million.
10. "Tim Burton's the Nightmare Before Christmas," $3.35 million.