Just in time for Halloween, a trick and a treat for studios at the box office.

One new chiller, The Ring, proved a yummy treat for DreamWorks, while the weekend's second thriller, Abandon, got Paramount the equivalent of soaped-up windows and toilet-papered trees.

The Ring rang up $15 million as the new number-one movie, proving to be almost three times more popular than Abandon. A PG-13 update of a Japanese hit, The Ring stars Mulholland Drive's Naomi Watts as a reporter trying to solve the mysterious deaths of viewers of a creepy video. Abandon features Katie Holmes in a romantic triangle mystery about a missing boyfriend (Charlie Hunnam) and the cute cop (Benjamin Bratt) who's looking for him. That PG-13 Paramount release only debuted in seventh place with just $5 million.

Furthermore, The Ring, which was slipped into only 1,981 theaters, averaged a sharp $7,589 per screen, while Abandon, directed by Traffic screenwriter Stephen Gaghan, opened at 2,341 theaters, but only averaged a low-wattage $2,163.

The arrival of The Ring bumped the previously reigning thriller Red Dragon down to third place with $8.8 million, behind Reese Witherspoon's romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama, which took in $9.6 million to bring its four-week gross to a very sweet $98.5 million.

Audiences weren't abandoning Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie, which scored a higher per-screen average--$2,471--than Abandon. Adding 407 theaters, the G-rated Artisan release, in which a bunch of greens act biblical, finished in ninth place, earning $3.9 million at 1,581 sites. It has now taken in $16 million in four weeks.

The new Formula 51 opened in more theaters--1,857--but didn't crack the top 10. The R-rated Sony/Screen Gems drug actioner starring Samuel L. Jackson could only snort up $2.8 million from a $1,517 average.

Among the new entries in limited release was Auto Focus, Greg Kinnear's depiction of the murdered, sex-obsessed Hogan's Heroes star Bob Crane, who was fond of videotaping his indulgences. The R-rated Sony Pictures Classic release averaged $11,251 at 11 sites to earn $124,000. At 55 theaters, HBO/Newmarket's PG-13 Real Women Have Curves, starring America Ferrera as a plus-sized woman of independent spirit, averaged $3,341 to earn $184,000. At just two screens in New York, the PG-rated Miramax release Naqoyqatsi, the final part of Godfrey Reggio's visual poem of modern images, tallied $17,000.

More rewardingly in limited release was Adam Sandler's romantic drama Punch-Drunk Love. The film expanded to 78 screens and averaged an impressive $18,986 for $1.5 million. Meanwhile, Michael Moore's documentary Bowling for Columbine widened to 46 screens, averaging $15,827 to earn $728,000.

Here's a recap of the top 10, as compiled by Exhibitor Relations from final studio figures released Monday:

1. The Ring, $15 million
2. Sweet Home Alabama, $9.6 million
3. Red Dragon, $8.8 million
4. My Big Fat Greek Wedding, $7.1 million
5. Brown Sugar, $5.2 million
6. The Transporter, $5.08 million
7. Abandon, $5.06 million
8. The Tuxedo, $4.1 million
9. Jonah: A Veggie Tales Movie, $3.9 million
10. Tuck Everlasting, $3.8 million

(Originally published 10/20/02 at 2:25 p.m. PT)

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