Singing and dancing are at the top of the box office charts in the US after High School Musical 3: Senior Year debuted at number one.

The third instalment in the Disney franchise - but the first to receive a theatrical release - pulled in $42 million (£27.4 million) after its first week on release.

And according to industry newspaper Variety, the Zac Efron film has earned $82 million (£53.4 million) worldwide, making it the first film to open at number one globally since The Dark Knight.

Horror sequel Saw V earned an impressive $30.5 million (£19.9 million) to open at number two, which leaves it just $2 million (£1.3 million) short of overtaking the Friday the 13th series to become the highest-grossing horror series ever.

"You'd never know we were supposed to be in a recession when you see two openings like this," said Steve Rothenberg, chief of distribution for Saw V's production company Lionsgate.

"When Hollywood offers up a choice, the audience can really expand."

Of the surprisingly high box office takings of High School Musical 3 and Saw V, Chris Leroy, Disney's executive vice president of domestic distribution, said: "Nobody knew exactly what to expect.

"This is new territory given that the first two were movies done for cable."

He added: "The other movie opening this weekend did what it does, and with the two of us, there was an opportunity to expand the overall audience. Audiences will come if you give them a reason to."

Last week's top two films, Max Payne and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, each fell two places while Pride and Glory, a police drama starring Edward Norton and Colin Farrell, debuted in fifth.

The top ten films at the US box office are: (last week's position)

1 High School Musical 3: Senior Year (-)
2 Saw V (-)
3 Max Payne (1)
4 Beverly Hills Chihuahua (2)
5 Pride and Glory (-)
6 The Secret Life Of Bees (3)
7 W (4)
8 Eagle Eye (5)
9 Body of Lies (6)
10 Quarantine (7)

27/10/2008 09:14:43