SUNDAY AM: Disney’s G rated tween/teen audience pleaser High School Musical 3: Senior Year sounded the right note at the box office this weekend to become what the studio boasted was the biggest musical ever both internationally and domestically, and the first global #1 opening since The Dark Knight. HSM3 opened with a big $16.9 million Friday from a very wide release into 3,623 North American theaters. But then it surprisingly fell 9% Saturday to make $15.3 million. So now its domestic weekend total, counting Sunday’s estimated gross, is a hefty $42 million. Overseas, it did another $40 million after launching day and date in 19 territories through Sunday, including the UK, Germany, Spain, France and Brazil. Clearly, the HSM TV franchise’s huge Disney Channel ratings translated into HSM3‘s theatrical ticket sales. Let’s dance and sing and win one for the senior class! (That tried and true wholesome upbeat formula succeeds at the start of the holiday movie season yet again.) Advance sales had been off the hook for a while. Friday night, for instance, tween girls in Kalamazoo, Michigan, planned their birthday bashes around the movie’s debut. One group, accompanied by a mother, showed up in homemade HSM T-shirts (photo below). Disney knew that HSM3 would be a hard film to track since no one can recall a TV movie (as opposed to TV series) that has been made into a theatrical motion picture sequel. One for the record books. But the pic easily made the transition from the small to big screen thanks to Kenny Ortega’s direction and Peter Barsocchini’s script and stars Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale. HSM3 also beat its musical genre category comps, opening much better than Mamma Mia and Hairspray which also went after predominantly younger and female audiences. Internationally, HSM3 still has 35% of the world left to open, including Mexico, Italy and Belgium.

In 2nd place, Twisted Picture/Lionsgate’s revolting torture porn gorefest Saw V made a $14.1 million debut Friday from 3,060 venues, then fell 30% Saturday for $9.9 million for a $30.5M weekend — on a par with the $31.7M-$33.1M that this franchise’s sequels have reliably generated even though this kind of Hard R-rated crap is increasingly repulsive to teen women on Date Night. Yet Lionsgate boasts it’s on its way to becoming the top-grossing horror franchise of all time. The five Saw films have now grossed a cumulative $316.2 million to date at the domestic box office and will pass the $317.8 million hauled in by the eleven Friday the 13th films Monday or Tuesday. The Saw franchise also passed Halloween, whose nine films have grossed a cumulative $307.4 million, this past weekend. The Saw franchise is already one of the most profitable in box office history. The original Saw cost only $1.2 million to make, and the franchise now has achieved worldwide box office of more than $550 million and combined worldwide theatrical and home entertainment grosses of more than $1 billion.

But New Line/Warner Bros’ been there/done that crime drama Pride And Glory starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell made a pathetic $2.3 million Friday and $2.4 million Saturday at 2,585 plays for No. 5 and a $6.2M weekend. Then again, neither Norton or Farrell have the star power to open a movie.

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D, the 2008 re-issue playing in 284 runs, took in $372K this weekend. Universal platformed Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-touted The Changeling starring Angelina Jolie at 15 theaters in 9 markets for $502K from Friday-Sunday, a terrific start.

There’s been tremendous interest by the public in the box office fate of Oliver Stone’s W. for its second weekend in release. Well, it ran out of steam. QED International/Lionsgate’s Bush biopic sank 58% to No. 7 with a $5.3M weekend from 2,050 dates and new cume of $18.7M. The $30M negative cost film should end up with $23M domestic box office gross by the end of its North American run. That means, with a $25M P&A investment and Lionsgate’s distribution fees, the film won’t recoup.

The rest of the Top 10 were veterans. 20th Century Fox’s Max Payne starring Mark Wahlberg in the video game-turned-movie dropped 57% from a week ago for a $7.6M weekend from 3,381 dates for 3rd place. With a new cume of only $29.6M, this film is looking like an underperformer. Disney’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua keeps hanging on and earned another $6.9M this weekend from 3,190 theaters for No. 4 and a solid $78.1M cume. In the 6th spot, Fox Searchlight’s heartwarming The Secret Life Of Bees took in $5.9M (-44%) for the weekend from 1,630 venues for a new $19.2M cume. DreamWorks/Paramount’s Shia LeBoeuf actioner Eagle Eye raked in another $5.1M this weekend from 2,558 runs for a new cume of $87.9M for #8. Warner Bros’ thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe in costly Body Of Lies came in No. 9 with a $4M Friday from 2,150 theaters and weak new cume of $30.8M. And in the 10th spot, Screen Gems/Sony’s Quarantine scared up another $2.5M this FSS from 2,228 plays for a fresh $28.7M cume.

Overall, this was a great weekend for Hollywood at the box office with $136M, up 35% from last year.