HOLLYWOOD -- 'Pet Sematary,' the screen version of Stephen King's best-selling horror novel, spooked away its competition and clinched top box-office honors with a $12 million gross.
In its first week in release, the occult story of a New England family living near an abandoned pet cemetery opened in 1,585 theaters and scared up an astounding $7,600 per-screen average.
Although 'Pet Sematary' lacks a marquee-value cast -- featuring Dale Midkiff, Denise Crosby and Fred Gwynne -- it is enhanced by a screenplay crafted by King, who stuck to the original.
Paramount Pictures boasted that its newest release received the biggest opening ever during the traditionally slow period between New Years Day and Memorial Day.
The studio also produced the second top box-office film currently showing, the baseball comedy 'Major League,' collected 40 percent of the market share last weekend.
'Major League,' dropping from the No. 1 position it held for the past two weeks, stars Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen and Corbin Bernsen as key players in a resurgence of the Cleveland Indians during a dream season.
Playing on 1,615 screens, 'Major League' grossed $5.2 million for a three-week total of $25.7 million.
No. 3 was 'Say Anything,' starring John Cusack and Ione Skye as a couple of young lovers, sensitively written by Cameron Crowe, who also wrote 'Fast Times at Ridgemont High.'
'Say Anything' captured $3.8 million on 1,113 screens for a two-week gross of $9 million.
'The Dream Team,' an off-beat comedy about a quartet of loonies on the loose in New York City, took in $3.2 million in 1,459 theaters. Starring Michael Keaton, Peter Boyle, Christopher Lloyd and Stephen Furst, 'The Dream Team' has grossed $15.9 million in three weeks.
Academy Award champ 'Rain Man' was No. 5, with a box-office tally of $2.3 million in 1,391 theaters. In 19 weeks the touching drama of an autistic savant and his hustler brother has earned $155.7 million.
Three newcomers cracked the top 10.
'Red Scorpion,' starring Dolph Lundgren in an action adventure drama, grossed $1.9 million to land in the No. 7 spot.
'See You in The Morning,' with Jeff Bridges falling out of one marriage and into another, grossed $1.8 million and registered No. 8.
'Speed Zone,' a cross-country car race comedy starring Brooke Shields, John Candy, the Smothers Brothers and other celebrities, earned $1.4 million to grab No. 10.
But even the big splash of 'Pet Sematary' was not enough to make the week a howling success for theater owners. Altogether, the North American gross was $66.4 million, compared with $78.2 million for the same week last year and $72.6 million for 1987.
The 23,000 theaters in the United States and Canada have accounted for $1.175 billion so far this year as against $1.165 billion for the same time frame in 1988.
The top 10, last week's gross, total gross, weeks in release:
1. 'Pet Sematary,' $12 million, 1 week.
2. 'Major League,' $5.2 million, $25.7 million, 3 weeks.
3. 'Say Anything' $3.8 million, $9 million, 2 weeks.
4. 'The Dream Team,' $3.2 million, $15.9 million, 3 weeks.
5. 'Rain Man,' $2.3 million, $155.7 million, 19 weeks.
6. 'She's Out of Control,' $2.2 million, $6.7 million 2 weeks.
7. 'Red Scorpion,' $1.9 million, 1 week.
8. 'See You in the Morning,' $1.8 million, 1 week.
9. 'Disorganized Crime,' $1.6 million, $5.3 million, 2 weeks.
10. 'Speed Zone,' $1.4 million, 1 week.