Paranormal Activity 2 Commands Weekend Box Office With $41.5 Million

Paramount Pictures unsurprisingly dominated the North American box office this weekend with a double dose of low budget blockbusters. Their horror sequel Paranormal Activity 2 set a record for horror film while Jackass 3D had another strong outing following its own record-setting debut. Clint Eastwood’s spiritual drama Hereafter got off to a so-so start though each film in the top ten had solid holds. While the top five may have been a bit lower than last weekend (3.3%), the top ten was actually up a slight bit (0.3%) and was up a healthy 17% from last year at this time when the original Paranormal Activity ruled the box office.

Produced for a scant $3 million, Paranormal Activity 2 got off to a scary start last Thursday night at 12:01am to gross an impressive $6.3 million en route to a $20.1 million Friday opening and a huge $41.5 million estimate for the weekend off 3,216 screens. In comparison, the original’s biggest weekend gross last year was $21 million. Directed by Tod Williams (The Door in the Floor), the film set a record for the biggest opening for a horror film ever and easily turned a big profit for the Viacom studio by the end of its first day. Reviews were mostly on the positive side with the movie scoring a 67% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Whether Paranormal Activity 2 will reach the $107 million gross of the 2009 original remains to be seen. While horror films and sequels tend to be front loaded these days, Saturday’s $13 million take was off a somewhat steep 35.2% from opening day while Sunday is being estimated at $8.3 million, also down 35% from the day before. Even if the movie is over and done with by the first weekend in November, it has already proved to be profitable. This, of course, guarantees one thing is for certain: there will be a Paranormal Activity 3 and possibly annual entries ala Liongate’s Saw franchise.

Paramount’s Jackass 3-D had another great weekend after debuting to a huge $50.8 million last weekend. It was off 57% with an estimated $21.6 million for a new ten-day total of $87.1 million. As a majority of the franchise’s fans came out in the first week to see the movie, a big second weekend drop off was inevitable. The fact that the third film has out-grossed (no pun intended) the two previous films is an indicator that this entry may be adding new members to its fan base (I’m sure it’s a big hit with the over 50 crowd). The 3D ticket surcharges always help matters as well. Watch for Johnny Knoxville and the boys to prank their way to a very impressive $125-130 million by the end of the movie’s theatrical run.

Last weekend’s other big opener, the Summit action comedy Red, also held strong in its second go-around to land in third place. The film eased a slight 31% for an estimated $15 million in sales to bring its ten-day take to a solid $43.5 million. Benefiting from word-of-mouth, largely from the 25+ crowd, the film could finish its run with a very healthy $75-80 million domestic gross.

After debuting in six theaters last weekend to big numbers, Warner Brothers expanded Clint Eastwood’s afterlife drama Hereafter into 2,150 theaters with mixed results. While the $12 million opening is on the mediocre side, one definitely should not call the 80-year old director’s latest a box office dud (although Rotten Tomatoes’ 51% approval rating may dictate otherwise). The Matt Damon-starrer was made for and marketed to the adult audience demographic who rarely rush out to a film on opening weekend. Witness the recent openings -and durability- of Disney’s Secretariat and Summit’s Red. Plus, the Friday-to-Saturday rise in business for Hereafter was a solid 24%, a signal which may indicate that Friday ticket buyers liked what they saw.

In fifth place was David Fincher’s hit drama The Social Network, off 29% while adding another $7.3 million’s worth of new friends to bring its total to the $73 million range. Providing how the film cleans up during the end-of-the-year awards ceremonies, the film still has a shot at the $100 million mark. Holding up strong yet again in sixth place was Disney’s sports drama Secretariat with $6.9 million in weekend earnings. Off only 26%, the movie’s gross now stands at a sturdy $37.3 million after three weeks in release.

Aside from the Eastwood drama, Warner Brothers had three other films in the top ten this weekend. Their Katherine Heigl vehicle Life As We Know It held up well again to land in seventh place. Off a moderate 31% from the weekend before, the movie grossed an estimated $6.1 million for a new three week total of $37.6 million. Eighth place belonged to the studio’s 3D animated feature Legend of the Guardians with $3.1 million. Off 24% (the smallest drop in the top ten), Zack Snyder’s owl movie has made $50.1 million thus far. Ninth place went to Ben Affleck’s The Town which eased 31% in its sixth weekend for a $2.7 million haul and a new total of $84.6 million. Like The Social Network, Affleck’s crime drama hit could see a boost in sales if awards season proves to be kind to the $37 million production. Look for it on home video by year’s end. Rounding out the top ten was Sony’s Easy A with $1.75 million and a new to-date total of $54.8 million.

Next weekend Lionsgate unleashes the seventh chapter of the Saw franchise, Saw 3D. Whether the 3D gimmick will help revive the series following the low grosses of last year’s entry or not is anyone’s guess at this point. Also debuting is the film version of the third and final chapter in the late Stieg Larsson’s ‘Millennium Trilogy,’ The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. It debuts in limited release on Wednesday via distributor Music Box.

Check back Monday for the weekend box office final numbers and Tuesday for our next Box Office Prophet Game.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

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