Horror film Saw III has proved the most popular movie in North American cinemas during the weekend before Halloween, as its predecessors did in 2004 and 2005.
Serial killer flick Saw III stars Shawnee Smith and Tobin Bell
It took an estimated $34.3m (£18m), knocking period drama The Prestige, which took $9.6m (£5m), down to third.
Martin Scorsese's mob tale The Departed was number two for the third successive week, generating $9.8m (£5.2m).
The only other new entry in the chart was Running With Scissors, a drama about a bizarre family, at number 10.
As with the other Saw films, the third in the series revolves around Jigsaw, an ailing serial killer played by Tobin Bell, who likes to invent ingenious methods of torture.
Darren Lynn Bousman, the director of Saw II, returned for this movie, working from a script by Leigh Whannell, who wrote all three.
Production company Lionsgate said it was the highest opening for an R-rated release since Troy in May 2004.
NORTH AMERICAN BOX OFFICE
1. Saw III ($34.3m)
2. The Departed ($9.8m)
3. The Prestige ($9.6m)
4. Flags of Our Fathers ($6.4m)
5. Open Season ($6.1m)
6. Flicka ($5m)
7. Man of the Year ($4.7m)
8. The Grudge II ($3.3m)
9. Marie Antoinette ($2.9m)
10. Running With Scissors ($2.6m)
Source: Exhibitor Relations
Elsewhere on a relatively quiet week, Clint Eastwood's World War II drama Flags of Our Fathers fell one place to fourth place, taking $6.4m (£3.4m).
And animated comedy Open Season was also down one at number five, with box office receipts of $6.1m (£3.2m).
For the fifth weekend in a row, takings among the major films were up, compared to a year ago.
The top 12 movies earned $89.1m (£47m), a rise of 2.4% on the same weekend in 2005.