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Will 'Paranormal Activity,' the craftily marketed haunted-house movie that expands from 760 to about 2,000 theaters on Friday, beat out three new arrivals and last week's champ 'Where the Wild Things Are' at the box office this week?

Though Spike Jonze's 'Where the Wild Things Are' scored the eighth biggest October opening in movie history, it will be hard-pressed to hold the top spot, given 'Paranormal' plus a trio of new films timed to tap into a rising Halloween spirit -- 'Saw VI,' 'Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant' and 'Astro Boy' (OK, it's a stretch to call this last one Halloween centric, though Astro will make an adorable costume for the younger set).


Will 'Paranormal Activity,' the craftily marketed haunted-house movie that expands from 760 to about 2,000 theaters on Friday, beat out three new arrivals and last week's champ 'Where the Wild Things Are' at the box office this week?

Though Spike Jonze's 'Where the Wild Things Are' scored the eighth biggest October opening in movie history, it will be hard-pressed to hold the top spot, given 'Paranormal' plus a trio of new films timed to tap into a rising Halloween spirit -- 'Saw VI,' 'Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant' and 'Astro Boy'(OK, it's a stretch to call this last one Halloween centric, though Astro will make an adorable costume for the younger set).

'Paranormal,' which cost its writer-director Oren Peli a reported $11,000 to make, sold an average of $26,530 worth of tickets in those 760 theaters last weekend and has had everyone comparing it to the mock-doc box office phenomenon that was 'Blair Witch Project.' That 1999 film took in $29.2 million when it moved from limited to wide release in just 1,100 theaters.

'Paranormal''s per-theater average could drop by 50% and still win the weekend.

Its chief competitor is the sixth edition in the 'Saw' franchise, a slasher-genre derivative that has become almost a rite of passage for teenagers and young adults merging date nights with fright nights. The 'Saw' movies aren't around long but they open big -- the last four each scored $30 million-plus openings in late October.

'Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant' is a horror comedy based on the 12-book series 'The Saga of Darren Shan,' about a teenage boy who joins a circus sideshow and becomes a vampire-in-training. The movie is targeted for teenage boys, the most reliable of demographic groups, but this weekend, they may be yearning for 'Paranormal.'

Also opening in about 3,000 theaters is 'Astro Boy,' a computer-animated cartoon adventure about a robot boy turned superhero. It has the twin advantages of being the only new family film in theaters and a much safer bet for parents than 'Where the Wild Things Are,' which dazzled critics and many adults but left others wondering what was in it for kids.

Opening in limited release (800 theaters) is Mira Nair's 'Amelia,' a biographical drama starring Hilary Swank as aviatrix Amelia Earhart. Despite having won two best-actress Oscars, Swank has shown little box office appeal, so positive reviews are key to getting 'Amelia' off the ground.



Prep for the weekend with trailers, clips and other goodies on Moviefone:
'Astro Boy' Character Guide | Watch trailers & clips | Kristen Bell talks 'Astro Boy'
'Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant' Set Visit | Watch trailers & clips
'Paranormal Activity' trailer | Haunting fan reactions
'Amelia' trailers & clips
'Saw VI' trailer & Photos