Ouija spells out win on US, Canada movie charts

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 US$20 million (S$26 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 US$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 US$13 million to claim the No. 3 spot, while Ben Affleck's mystery thriller Gone Girl grossed US$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 US$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 US$20 million haul for "this micro-budgeted film", which she said had cost about US$5 million to make.

"And it just shows that PG-13-rated horror films can work really well," she added, noting that 68 per cent 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 per cent of reviews on the Rotten Tomatoes website recommending the film.

Rounding out the top five, animated movie The Book of Life took in US$9.8 million. The film draws on Mexican art and wooden puppets to tell a love story rooted in the Day of the Dead festivities.