“PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” (Paramount) topped “Saw X” (Lionsgate) by a healthy $5 million ($23 million to $18 million) on a weekend when either seemed feasible at #1. However, the order here isn’t the real story.

While a “PAW”/”Saw” convergence isn’t exactly the second coming of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” it’s still two films with very different appeal that clicked on the same weekend and will end up in profit.

“The Creator” (Disney) ranked as #3 with $14 million, which isn’t the problem so much as its expense. The Gareth Edwards-directed sci-fi actioner in which humans battle AI drew praise for its visual design at a price ($80 million, before marketing), but a modest debut for the New Regency production is a setback for those hoping creativity and originality might launch this higher.

Still, that does mean three films grossed over $14 million in September, which is by no means a sure thing. The total gross looks like around $86 million, up from $64 million last year. Year to date remains 26 percent above 2022.

Paramount’s $30 million-budgeted animated sequel, based on the popular Canadian Nickelodeon program, benefited from the lack of kids’ films. That will position them for interest through October, with substantial gross ahead.

The first effort in 2021 came with a same-day release on Paramount + and opened to $13 million and grossed $40 million, depsite home play. Expect this one to do $75 million or better. Apart from further revenues, Paramount is now positioned to continue the franchise.

SAW X, (aka SAW 10), 2023. ph: Alexandro Bolanos Escamilla /© Lionsgate / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Saw X” ©Lions Gate/Courtesy Everett Collection

It’s pretty impressive that the 10th film in the “Saw” horror world improved on recent releases. “Spiral” in COVID-parallel 2021 opened to under $9 million. Budgeted at $13 million, “Saw X” came with decent reviews and pre-release interest. It faces a challenge from “Exorcist: The Believer” next week, but it is already a winner.

A fourth new release made the top 5. Behind #4 “The Nun II” (Warner Bros., after three weeks at #1) is “The Blind” (Fathom). The biopic of Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Duck Dynasty waddle, took in just under $5 million since its Thursday debut. This is another example of the events-based company and faith-based audiences creating symmetry outside normal studio releases, to theaters’ benefit.

Shailene Woodley and Paul Dano star in DUMB MONEY.
“Dumb Money”Claire Folger

That result gives some idea of the weakness of “Dumb Money” (Sony). Craig Gillespie’s Toronto-premiered meme stock story was positioned to be the fall’s first studio awards contender/older audience release. After two earlier weeks to boost word of mouth, it could only take in $3.5 million on 2,837 screens.

The reality is that with less than awards-level reviews (Metacritic: 66, mildly favorable) and lacking the star heft of “Moneyball” or “The Big Short,” it’s doubtful any strategy would have fared better. This one gave the film a chance to sprout audience roots and it didn’t.

Holdovers were largely weaker than average. Worst was the second weekend of “Expend4bles” (Lionsgate), down 69 percent from a bad opening, falling from second to ninth. That takes some doing.

The specialized side is highlighted by reissues. “Stop Making Sense” (A24) expanded from its IMAX dates to 786 theaters, with the Talking Heads concert film doing over $1 million. Gregg Araki’s 1997 “Nowhere” (Strand), part of his Teen Apocalypse trilogy, scored a terrific $17,000 in a single New York date ahead of a national re-release.

Among other openers, the top performers are “Common Ground” (A24), a food movement documentary which did $37,000 in four theaters, and the SXSW-premiered “Story Ave” (Kino Lorber), which did just under $10,000 in one New York theater.

Not faring as well was “Carlos” (Sony Pictures Classics). The documentary about the legendary musician Carlos Santana in a non-platform release managed only $367,000 in 541 theaters.

The Top 10

1. PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie (Par) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic: 52; Est. budget: $30 million

$23,000,000 in 3,644 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $5,766; Cumulative: $23,000,000

2. Saw X (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B; Metacritic: 61; Est. budget: $13 million

$18,000,000 in 3,262 theaters; PTA: $5,518; Cumulative: $18,000,000

3. The Creator (Disney) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 63; Est. budget: $80 million

$14,000,000 in 3,680 theaters; PTA: $3,804; Cumulative: $14,000,000

4. The Nun II (WB) Week 4; Last weekend #1

$4,675,000 (-45%) in 2,871 (-665) theaters; PTA: $1,628; Cumulative: $76,760,000

5. The Blind (Fathom) NEW

$4,119,000 in 1,715 theaters; PTA: $2,399; Cumulative: $4,982,000

6. A Haunting in Venice (Disney) Week 3; Last weekend #3

$3,800,000 (-40%) in 2,785 (-520) theaters; PTA: $1,364 ; Cumulative: $31,600,000

7. Dumb Money (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend #8

$3,500,000 (+44%) in 2,837 (2,218) theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $7,300,000

8. The Equalizer 3 (Sony) Week 5; Last weekend #4

$2,700,000 (-43%) in 2,184 (-1,086) theaters; PTA: $1,234; Cumulative: $85,928,000

9. Expend4bles (Lionsgate) Week 2; Last weekend #2

$2,495,000 (-69%) in 3,518 (no change) theaters; PTA: $709; Cumulative: $13,258,000

10. Barbie (Warner Bros.) Week 11; Last weekend #5; also on PVOD

$1,430,000 (-55%) in 1,302 (-1,332) theaters; PTA: $1,008; Cumulative: $633,082,000

Other specialized titles

Films (limited, expansions of limited, as well as awards-oriented releases) are listed by week in release, starting with those opened this week; after the first three weeks, only films with grosses over $5,000 are listed.Metacritic scores and film festivals lists as listed.

Carlos (Sony Pictures Classics) NEW – Festivals include: Tribeca 2023

$367,043 in 541 theaters; PTA: $678

Common Ground (Area 23) NEW – Festivals include: Tribeca 2023

$37,000 in 4 theaters; PTA: $9,250

Story Ave (Kino Lorber) NEW – Metacritic: 65; Festivals include: South by Southwest 2023

$9,852 in 1 theater; PTA: $9,852

The Kill Room (Blue Fox) NEW – Metacritic: 61

$87,105 in 355 theaters; PTA: $245

Nowhere (Strand) (reissue) Week 1

$17,000 in 1 theater; PTA: $17,000

Stop Making Sense (A24) (reissue) Week 2

$1,041,000 in 786 (+522) theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $3,009,000 (reissue only)

It Lives Inside (Neon) Week 2

$767,500 in 1,827 (-128) theaters; PTA: $420; Cumulative: $4,271,000

My Sailor, My Love (Music Box) Week 2

$8,902 in 10 (-25) theaters; PTA: $890; Cumulative: $57,465

Uncharitable (Abramorama) Week 2

$5,214 in 2 (+1) theaters; PTA: $2,607; Cumulative: $27,438

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3 (Focus) Week 4; also on PVOD

$1,200,000 in 1,474 (-1,604) theaters; Cumulative: $26,409,000

Amerikatsi (Variance) Week 4

$37,589 in 26 (-13) theaters; Cumulative: $345,353

Bottoms (MGM) Week 6; also on PVOD

$241,386 in 207 (-438) theaters; Cumulative: $11,612,000

Golda (Bleecker Street) Week 6

$32,790 in 76 (-65) theaters; Cumulative: $4,681,000

Scrapper (Kino Lorber) Week 6

$9,379 in 20 (no change) theaters; Cumulative: $176,258

Fremont (Music Box) Week 6

$7,009 in 12 (-22) theaters; Cumulative: $244,745

Jules (Bleecker Street) Week 8

$6,084 in 23 (-5) theaters; Cumulative: $1,922,000

Talk to Me (A24) Week 10; also on PVOD

$173,174 in 212 (-228) theaters; Cumulative: $47,963,000

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