LOS ANGELES/NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Ouija", a horror film inspired by the board said to contact the dead, haunted the top of movie charts in the United States and Canada, collecting $20 million in weekend ticket sales and knocking Brad Pitt's "Fury" out of first place.
Another new entry, action thriller "John Wick" starring Keanu Reeves as a hit man out for revenge, debuted in second, taking in $14.2 million from Friday through Sunday, according to estimates from tracking firm Rentrak.
"Fury," a World War Two drama about a U.S. Army tank crew, earned $13 million to claim the No. 3 spot, while Ben Affleck's mystery thriller "Gone Girl" grossed $11.1 million, finishing fourth.
The low-budget "Ouija" got pre-Halloween crowds in the mood for a good scare. The movie tells the story of a group of young girls who reach out to the spirit world in search of answers about their friend's mysterious death.
"Ouija," which came in just shy of predictions from Box Office Mojo that it would make $22 million in ticket sales, nonetheless scored another success for the low-budget horror genre. Jason Blum, the filmmaker behind "The Purge" and "Paranormal Activity" franchises, was a co-producer on "Ouija" with Comcast Corp's Universal Pictures.
"The results speak for themselves," said Nikki Rocco, president for domestic distribution at Universal Pictures of the $20 million haul for "this micro-budgeted film", which she said had cost about $5 million to make.
"And it just shows that PG-13-rated horror films can work really well," she added, noting that 68 percent of the audience was under the age of 21, in a market crowded with R-rated box office hits.
In "John Wick," which exceeded industry expectations for its opening, Reeves portrays a grieving husband and retired assassin who reverts to killing to avenge wrongs done to him by Russian mobsters.
The performance by Reeves, best known for "The Matrix" franchise which ended in 2003, won high praise from critics with 86 percent of reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes website recommending the film, which was distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.
Rounding out the top five, animated movie "The Book of Life" took in $9.8 million. The film, a co-production of Reel FX Creative Studios and Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's Twentieth Century Fox studios, draws on Mexican art and wooden puppets to tell a love story rooted in the Day of the Dead festivities.
Fox also released "Gone Girl", the movie based on the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn about a man suspected of causing his wife's disappearance. "Fury" was distributed by Sony Corp's movie studio.
(Reporting by Lisa Richwine and Chris Michaud; Editing by Tom Heneghan and David Stamp)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun