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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Rival studios are doging the extra-dimensional buzz saw of "Saw 3D" at the North American box office this weekend.
Halloween crowds have been titillated by a new "Saw" picture annually since 2004, but the Lionsgate torture series has been losing its edge in recent years.
Bolstered by premium-priced 3D engagements, the new film is expected to earn more than $20 million during its first three days through Sunday. That will be a vast improvement on last year's "Saw VI," which launched with a disappointing $14.1 million en route to a $27.9 million total.
"Saw III" holds the franchise record for the best debut, earning $33.6 million in 2006; it finished up with $80.3 million, just short of the record $87 million collected a year earlier by "Saw II" after a $31 million start.
Meanwhile, Paramount's haunted-house picture "Paranormal Activity 2" -- last weekend's No. 1 movie with a $40.7 million opening -- is expected to suffer a big decline. But even a 60% slide would yield $16 million for the weekend and likely the weekend's silver medal.
"In a perfect world, it would be great if there was no direct competition," Lionsgate executive vp distribution David Spitz said. "But 'Saw 3D' is tracking really well, and we think it's going to have a good weekend."
The session's sole wide opener, "Saw 3D" is also the most expensive production in the franchise with production costs estimated at less than $20 million.