LOS ANGELES -- Leatherface has chainsawed The Hobbit off his box-office perch.
The latest sequel in the bloody film series, Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3-D, reaped $23 million in its first weekend, according to studio estimates, knocking the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy down to third place with $17.5 million in its fourth week.
"Nobody expected Texas Chainsaw"to reach the top, says Paul Dergarabedian of Hollywood.com. "And wewere foolish not to. These horror movies do really well, and this is oneof the biggest brands. Young moviegoers clearly wanted a scare to startthe new year, (and) nothing says Happy New Year's like a leather maskand a chain saw."
Django Unchained came in second with $20.1 million, and a two-week total of $106.4 million. The Hobbit has rolled up $263.8 million in the USA and about $800 million worldwide since its release Dec. 14.
Overallbusiness this weekend came in at $149 million, up 7% from the sameperiod last year. But with strong business on New Year's Day, Hollywoodalready has raked in $254.2 million, 33% ahead of last year. "It's clearwe are keeping the box office momentum from last year," Dergarabediansays.
Les Miserables was fourth with $16.1 million and a total of $103.6 million in two weeks. Parental Guidance was fifth with $10.1 million.
Chainsawis "one of those that survives each generation. It's something thatcontinues to come back and entertain its audience," said Richie Fay,head of distribution for studio Lionsgate. And it drew a hefty 84% ofits business from 3-D screenings.
In narrower release, Matt Damon drama Promised Landhad a slow start in its nationwide debut, coming in at No. 10 with $4.3million after opening in limited release a week earlier.
Final figures are due Monday.