"Halloween" heats up holiday box office

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A remake of the classic slasher movie “Halloween” took a commanding early lead at the North American weekend box office, according to preliminary estimates issued on Saturday.

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The movie, directed by rock star Rob Zombie, earned almost $11 million during its first day of release on Friday, said box office tracking firm Box Office Mojo.

Based on its strong start, the film should easily surpass observers’ forecasts of a $20 million haul for the four-day U.S. Labor Day holiday weekend.

“Halloween,” the eighth film to be spun off from John Carpenter’s 1978 original, focuses on the grim childhood of its villain, Michael Myers.

The teen comedy “Superbad,” which had led the field for the last two weekends, slipped to No. 2 with $3.5 million for the day; the hit film has earned $80.3 million to date.

It was closely followed by another new release, “Balls of Fury,” with $3.4 million. A martial arts movie parody set in the world of underground ping-pong, “Balls” got a head start on its fellow rookies by opening on Wednesday; its total since then stands at $6.4 million.

Rounding out the top five were two former champs, the action-thriller “The Bourne Ultimatum” with $2.6 million, and the comedy “Rush Hour 3” with $2.1 million.

The top 10 contained only one other new release -- the Kevin Bacon vigilante thriller “Death Sentence.” It was dead on arrival at No. 8 with just $1.4 million.

“Halloween” was produced by New York producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s Dimension Films, and released by closely held Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

“Superbad” was released by Columbia Pictures, a unit of Sony Corp.. “Balls of Fury” was released by Rogue Pictures, the genre division of NBC Universal’s Focus Features. “The Bourne Ultimatum” was released by NBC Universal’s Universal Pictures. “Rush Hour 3” was released by New Line Cinema, a unit of Time Warner Inc. “Death Sentence” was released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp.