Naomi Watts ran rings around the competition as her horror sequel "The Ring 2" took in $36 million to debut as the top weekend movie.
The movie's take was more than double the $15 million that the original surprise horror hit grossed at its 2002 opening.
"Robots," the previous weekend's No. 1 movie, slipped to second place with $21.8 million, lifting its 10-day total to $66.9 million, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Disney's family hit "The Pacifier" held up well in third place with $12.5 million, pushing its three-week total to $72.3 million.
But with those two child-friendly flicks remaining strong draws, Disney's new family movie "Ice Princess" had a tough time finding a toehold. "Ice Princess," starring Michelle Trachtenberg as a science geek who abandons the physics classroom to pursue a new dream as a figure skater, premiered at No. 4 with $7 million.
Trailers for "Ice Princess" ran before "The Pacifier," so audiences who caught that movie may be encouraged to see "Ice Princess" during spring break or over the Easter holiday, said Chuck Viane, Disney head of distribution.
"It's a double-edged sword. It helps you and it hurts you a little," Viane said.
For thrill seekers, "The Ring 2," offers Watts returning to her role as a journalist and single mom trying to save herself and her son from the curse of a killer videotape, whose viewers die horrible deaths within a week.
The original, based on a Japanese hit, became a word-of-mouth surprise success, holding strong as it steadily climbed to a $129 million total domestic gross. The sequel is expected to mirror the pattern of other horror hits, which open big, but take steep drops.
"Sequels just don't play the same way. You have to expect a good drop," said Jim Tharp, head of distribution for DreamWorks, which released both "Ring" flicks. "Obviously, we would hope to get that $100 million club, but we don't do any of those projections this early in the game."
Woody Allen's "Melinda and Melinda" _ which stars Radha Mitchell in dual roles in a comic and tragic retelling of the same story _ opened strongly with $74,048 on three screens at one New York City theater.
The film, which co-stars Will Ferrell, Chloe Sevigny and Amanda Peet, gradually expands into nationwide release through April 8.