Weekend Box Office – PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 Claims October Opening Record with $54 Million

     October 23, 2011

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Earlier this week, it seemed like Paranormal Activity 3 was looking at an opening weekend in the $35-$40 million range, or just slightly less than what its predecessor took in on this week last year.  Instead, the three-quel has crushed all projections with an estimated take of $54 million from 3,321 locations.  At this point that stands as the highest October debut and the biggest supernatural horror opening of all-time, unseating 2010’s Paranormal Activity 2, of course.

Title Weekend Total
1 Paranormal Activity 3 $54,000,000 $54
2 Real Steel $11,300,000 $67.2
3 Footloose $10,900,000 $30.9
4 The Three Musketeers $8,800,000 $8.8
5 Ides of March $4,900,000 $29.1
6 Dolphin Tale $4,500,000 $64.6
7 Moneyball $4,100,000 $63.7
8 Johnny English $3,800,000 $3.8
9 The Thing $3,100,000 $14
10 50/50 $2,800,000 $28.7

paranormal-activity-3-movie-poster-01Remember when Halloween belonged to the Saw franchise?  Not anymore.  For three years running the biggest name in horror has been Paranormal Activity, the low-budget franchise that began breaking records on this week back in 2009.  Actually, on this week three years ago, the first Paranormal Activity had been around for about a month: playing midnight shows in college towns and building the kind “did you see it buzz” that studios pray for.  Then its first wide weekend brought in $21.1 million and first place ahead of the horror heir-apparent, Saw VI.  By the time it ended its run, the film that cost $15,000 had taken in over $107 million in the US and $193 million worldwide.  Think Paramount wanted to see that kind of magic happen again?

One year later, Paranormal Activity 2 skipped the college road show and went straight to number one with $40.6 million.  That was enough to give the sequel the biggest supernatural horror opening of all time, though its final gross of $84.7 million US and $177.5 worldwide could not top the original.  When it came time for PA3, no one was willing to predict that the film could open bigger than the sequel.  By the time you put the number three on a poster, conventional wisdom says that you are going to start seeing your grosses dwindle.  But, because defying conventional wisdom has become standard with the Paranormal franchise, we now have a new supernatural horror record and the biggest debut weekend for any release since Rise of the Planet of the Apes back in August.

Big debut weekend aside, PA3 is probably destined to follow the path of other three-quels from here on.  Horror movies generally cannot sustain momentum beyond their first week, with the first Paranormal Activity very much a box office oddity in that respect.  Finally, I have repeatedly used the title “supernatural horror” when referring to the new record set by Paranormal 3.  That’s because, like all genres, the horror field is wide and deep and includes PG-13 hits like M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs along with R-rated shockers.  With $60.1 million earned in 2002, Signs still gets to call itself the king of “horror.” Of course, you can adjust for inflation, MPAA ratings and a host of other variables and come out with another champion, if you feel like putting in the time.

After falling to number three on Friday, Real Steel climbed back into second place on its third weekend, falling just 31% and bringing its domestic cume up to $67.2 million.  That’s still not the $100 million hit Dreamworks was hoping for but, things could be worse.  The sophomore hold of Paramount’s Footloose could also look much worse.  After a disappointing debut, the remake declined by just 30%, bringing its US total above its reported $24 million budget.  Meanwhile, both Moneyball and 50/50 have gone on to gross three times their opening weekend tallies – the definition of ‘legs,’ in box office speak.

the-three-musketeers-movie-image-3Even with a triple multiplier, Summit Entertainment will have a long way to go before it can call The Three Musketeers a hit.  The latest take on Dumas’ classic adventure novel opened with a disappointing $8.8 million from 3,017 locations.  Internationally, the film has brought in over $50 million, but with a budget that reportedly tops $90 million, fourth place in the US is just not gonna cut it.  Finally, Universal’s Johnny English Reborn need not concern itself with its eighth place US debut.  The comedy sequel to 2003’s Johnny English ($160 million in worldwide grosses) has already earned over $100 million internationally.

Next Friday will see another four new releases but only one, the Shrek spinoff Puss in Boots, is expected to make waves.  Last year, Saw 3D was the weekend’s number one with $22.5 million which means that Dreamworks’ Puss doesn’t have far to go to give this October’s box office another giant win.

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