Two movies opened on Friday but there was really only one game in town: Paranormal Activity 4. Since 2009, the low-cost horror franchise has ruled late October with its increasingly impressive openings. That tradition hit a speed bump this weekend with PA 4’s estimated $30.2 million debut from 3,412 locations. That falls short of PA 2 and 3 and is also off from the scaled-back projections that followed the film’s Friday opening.
|1.||Paranormal Activity 4||$30,200,000||$30.2|
|7.||Here Comes the Boom||$8.500,000||$23.2|
On Friday we told you that Paranormal Activity 4 opened with an estimated $15 million – a figure that included its 9 pm Thursday previews. That indicated that the film would not reach the $40 million weekend opening that most of us expected. In fact, $35 million suddenly seemed like a stretch. By the time Saturday’s estimates were announced, PA 4 had fallen even farther, making this the lowest debut since the first Paranormal Activity took the box office by storm.
There is no doubt that Paranormal Activity has been one of the biggest success stories of the past three years. Back in September of 2009, the low budget (try $15,000!) horror film started making the rounds of college towns. Building on an insanely successful word-of-mouth campaign, by early October Paranormal Activity had made it into the top five with $7.9 million from just 160 locations. Two weeks later, the film was still expanding when Saw VI opened. The once mighty horror-porn franchise took in just $14.1 million behind Paranormal Activity’s $21.1 million, and a new king of Halloween was crowned.
Once Paranormal Activity had been established as a successful franchise, its sequels took a more direct route to the top of the box office. In October 2010, PA 2 debuted with $40.6 million towards a final domestic gross of $84.7 million. Then last year, Paranormal Activity 3 set an October record when it opened with $52.5 million in the US. The last sequel also did well overall, taking in $101 million internationally and $205 million worldwide on a reported budget of just $5 million. And just in case that fact didn’t grab you: with its first three films alone, the Paranormal Activity series has earned $576 million worldwide. And their budgets? Just over $8 million combined.
I bring all this up as a way to demonstrate that, though the PA franchise has clearly lost a bit of its box office clout over the past twelve months, producers are not exactly worried. PA 4 opened this weekend in 33 overseas territories and earned a reported $25.6 million. Because the budget was kept at a thrifty $5 million, we are virtually assured that the series will make it to a sixth installment – by which time the next big thing in low-cost horror will be ready to usurp PA just as it unseated Saw back in 2009. It’s the circle of life!
When speaking of box office success stories over the past decade, Tyler Perry has to be part of the discussion. Since 2005, when his first feature Diary of a Mad Black Woman opened in first place, the director/actor/producer has become one of the industry’s most-consistent hit-makers. Of the twelve films released under the “Tyler Perry’s” banner, only three have failed to open to $20 million or above, and just one of those fell below $15 million (2007’s Tyler Perry’s Daddy’s Little Girls). A quick glance at the top ten would suggest that those statistics have been upended by the release of Alex Cross – starring a certain Tyler Perry. But not so fast! Note that Alex Cross is not called “Tyler Perry’s Alex Cross.” In fact, the film is Perry’s first stab at acting in another director’s film (aside from his cameo in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek).
From 2,539 locations, Alex Cross earned an estimated $11.7 million. Those are numbers unknown to Perry since the aforementioned Daddy’s Little Girls was released. The film is based on author James Patterson’s eponymous crime solver, previously portrayed by Morgan Freeman in the films Along Came a Spider and Kiss the Girls. Following the disappointment of Tyler Perry’s Good Deeds this February, this marks Perry’s second attempt to take his acting career beyond the bounds of Madea. And, unless Alex Cross proves more popular in the weeks to come, the star will probably have to abandon the thought of a building a franchise with this character… unless he directed the sequel himself? And worked in Madea somehow?
If both Paranormal Activity 4 and Alex Cross bore a slight taint of disappointment, no such odor clung to Argo. Following it’s impressive debut last weekend, director Ben Affleck’s latest feature fell just 14.6% to remain in second place. Argo’s success helped this weekend stay ahead of 2011 by over 10% – giving this year’s box office four straight weeks of positive growth. Next weekend should make that five, as long as at least one of the frame’s four (!) new releases can break out. Here’s hoping its Cloud Atlas…