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'PAW Patrol' shows bark at box office while 'The Creator' and 'Dumb Money' disappoint

After several quiet weeks in movie theaters, four films entered wide release over the weekend. "PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie" came out the top dog, with US$23 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The performances of all four films -- "PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie," "Saw X," "The Creator" and "Dumb Money" -- told a familiar story at the box office. What worked? Horror and animated franchises. What didn't? Originality and comedy.

"PAW Patrol," from Paramount Pictures and Spin Master, had timing on its side. The film, a sequel to the 2021 "PAW Patrol" movie adapted from the Nickelodeon TV series, was the first family animated movie in theaters since "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" was released in early August.

The first "PAW Patrol," released during the pandemic, debuted with US$13 million while simultaneously releasing on Paramount+, and its success in both arenas was a contributing factor in leading Nickelodeon chief Brian Robbins to be named head of Paramount. A third "PAW Patrol" movie has already been green-lit.

"Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie," which cost US$30 million to make, added US$23.1 million in overseas sales.

"Saw X," the tenth release in the long-running horror series, managed to bounce back from a franchise low with an opening weekend of US$18 million for Lionsgate. The previous "Saw" movie, 2021's "Spiral," starring Chris Rock, debuted with US$8.8 million and totaled US$23.3 million domestically.

But the 10th "Saw" doubled back on gore and brought back Tobin Bell as the serial killer Jigsaw. It came away with the franchise's best opening weekend in more than a decade and strong audience scores.

The US$13-million production was also the widest "Saw" release yet, playing in 3,262 theaters. Since James Wan's 2004 original, the "Saw" franchise -- the flagship series of so-called torture porn -- has made more than US$1 billion worldwide.

"The Creator," an US$80 million movie financed by New Regency and distributed by Disney's 20th Century Studios, was easily the biggest film to launch in theaters over the weekend but struggled to catch on. It grossed a modest US$14 million at 3,680 theaters while adding US$18.3 million internationally.

The film, directed by Gareth Edwards, stars John David Washington as an undercover operative in an AI-dominated future. "The Creator" drew mostly positive reviews and a B+ CinemaScore from audiences.

Sony Pictures' "Dumb Money," expanded nationwide after two weeks of limited release but failed to ignite the kind of populist movement it irreverently dramatizes. The film, directed by Craig Gillespie, came away with a disappointing US$3.5 million in 2,837 locations.

"Dumb Money," starring an ensemble of Paul Dano, Pete Davidson, Seth Rogen, American Ferrera and Anthony Ramos, turns the GameStop stock frenzy into a ripped-from-the-headlines underdog tale of amateur traders rattling Wall Street. While all of the weekend's new releases were hampered by the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, "Dumb Money" would have especially benefitted from its cast hitting late-night shows and other promotions.

Made for US$30 million, "Dumb Money" wasn't a massive bet. But it represented the kind of movie -- a mid-budget, acclaimed original mostly targeted at adults -- that Hollywood seldom makes anymore. As the industry enters an awards season a year after many high-profile contenders (among them "Tar" and "The Fabelmans") failed to catch on in theaters, the results for "Dumb Money" may be cautionary for films queuing up.

The weekend's other notable success came from a four-decade-old concert film. The 4K restoration of the Talking Heads concert film "Stop Making Sense" made US$1 million on 786 screens, and surely led all movies in the number of dancing moviegoers. The Jonathan Demme film has surpassed US$3 million thus far. Indie distributor A24 promised it will "have audiences dancing in the aisles around the world for a very long time to come."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. "PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie," US$23 million.

2. "Saw X," US$18 million.

3. "The Creator," US$14 million.

4. "The Nun II," US$4.7 million.

5. "The Blind," US$4.1 million.

6. "A Haunting in Venice," US$3.8 million.

7. "Dumb Money," US$3.5 million.

8. "The Equalizer," US$2.7 million.

9. "Expend4bles," US$2.5 million.

10. "Barbie," US$1.4 million.

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