LOS ANGELES — It took Leatherface and his chainsaw to chase tiny hobbit Bilbo Baggins out of the top spot at the box office.
Lionsgate's horror sequel "Texas Chainsaw 3-D” debuted at No. 1 with $23 million, according to studio estimates Sunday. The movie picks up where 1974's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” left off, with masked killer Leatherface on the loose again.
Quentin Tarantino's revenge saga "Django Unchained” held on at No. 2 for a second-straight weekend with $20.1 million. The Weinstein Co. release raised its domestic total to $106.4 million.
After three weekends at No. 1, part one of Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit” trilogy slipped to third with $17.5 million. That lifts the domestic haul to $263.8 million for "The Hobbit.” The Warner Bros. blockbuster added $57.1 million overseas to bring its international earnings to $561 million and its worldwide total to about $825 million.
Also passing the $100 million mark over the weekend was Universal's musical "Les Miserables,” which finished at No. 4 with $16.1 million, pushing its domestic total to $103.6 million.
Like other horror franchises, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre” has had several other remakes or sequels, but the idea always seems ripe for a new wave of fright-flick fans. Nearly two-thirds of the audience was under 25, too young — or not even born — when earlier "Texas Chainsaw Massacre” movies came out.
"It's one of those that survives each generation. It's something that continues to come back and entertain its audience,” said Richie Fay, head of distribution for Lionsgate.
"Texas Chainsaw” drew a hefty 84 percent of its business from 3-D screenings. Many movies now draw 50 percent or less of their revenue from 3-D screenings, but horror fans tend to prefer paying extra to see blood and guts fly with an added dimension.
In narrower release, Matt Damon's natural-gas fracking drama "Promised Land” had a slow start in its nationwide debut, coming in at No. 10 with $4.3 million after opening in limited release a week earlier.
Released by Focus Features, "Promised Land” stars Damon as a salesman pitching rural residents on fracking technology to drill for natural gas. The film widened to 1,676 theaters, averaging a slim $2,573 a cinema, compared with $8,666 in 2,654 theaters for "Texas Chainsaw.”
Hollywood began the year where it left in 2012, when business surged during the holidays to carry the industry to a record $10.8 billion at the domestic box office.
Overall business this weekend came in at $149 million, up 7 percent from the same period last year, when "The Devil Inside” led with $33.7 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com. But with strong business on New Year's Day last week, Hollywood already has raked in $254.2 million, 33 percent ahead of last year.
Box-office results ebb and flow quickly, so that lead could vanish almost overnight. But with a steady lineup of potential hits right through December, studios have a chance at another revenue record this year.
"The month that we had at the end of last year that led us to a record year continued right through New Year's and on now to the first official weekend of 2013,” said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "We're looking for an even stronger year this year. That's in the realm of possibility. But we have 51 weekends to go.”
Top ten movies:
1. "Texas Chainsaw 3-D,” $23 million.
2. "Django Unchained,” $20.1 million.
3. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” $17.5 million ($57.1 million international).
4. "Les Miserables,” $16.1 million
($14.5 million international).
5. "Parental Guidance,” $10.1 million.
6. "Jack Reacher,” $9.3 million
($22.3 million international).
7. "This Is 40,” $8.6 million.
8. "Lincoln,” $5.3 million.
9. "The Guilt Trip,” $4.5 million.
10. "Promised Land,” $4.3 million.