Horror threequel/prequel 'Paranormal Activity 3' scared up a frightful amount of money this weekend, setting a record for the biggest horror movie opening ever. With an estimated $54.0 million opening, it handily defeated this weekend's other two new wide releases, 'The Three Musketeers' and 'Johnny English Reborn.'
Even before it opened, 'Paranormal 3' had scared off most of the usual October horror competition. It was expected to open big, in the range of $36 to $41 million, based on the $40.6 million opening for last October's installment. But that lack of competition (including from the now-completed 'Saw' franchise, which overlapped with the first two 'Paranormal' movies in 2009 and 2010), clever marketing, strong advanced buzz, and an audience starved for reliable brand-name franchise entertainment combined to create a massive demand for the latest picture in the found-footage franchise. (On the downside, 'Paranormal Activity 3' earned a "C+" grade on Cinemascore, meaning the film could tumble during weekend two; 'Paranormal Activity 2' had a "B" rating last fall, and still dropped 59 percent in its second frame.)
Last week's winner, 'Real Steel,' ended its two-week reign at the top, slipping to second place with an estimated $11.3 million. That's down just 31 percent from last week, as the movie managed to remain the top choice for both action audiences and families with older kids. In three weekends, 'Real Steel' has earned $67.2 million.
'Footloose' is also proving to have legs. Coming in third with an estimated $10.9 million, it lost just 30 percent of last week's business. Its two-week total is $30.9 million.
Opening in fourth place, the latest in a long line of remakes of 'The Three Musketeers' drew only an estimated $8.8 milliion. That's well below tracking numbers, which hovered around $13 million. Star (and director Paul W.S. Anderson's wife) Milla Jovovich pre-emptively blamed the movie's marketers, but the film had problems no marketer could fix. Reviews and audience interest were both poor, with most ticket buyers these days are ambivalent at best about 3D. Despite Jovovich trying to spin the PG-13 picture as a "family adventure," it had little appeal to young audiences: studio polling found 64 percent of the audience was over 25. Maybe young viewers aren't familiar with the classic tale, or maybe they were all just getting their jolts from 'Paranormal Activity 3.'
In fifth place, 'The Ides of March' remained relatively strong, taking in another estimated $4.9 million. As with 'Steel' and 'Footloose,' that represents a decline of just 30 percent from last week. The Oscar-hopeful drama's three-week total is $29.2 million.
The weekend's other new wide release, 'Johnny English Reborn,' barely opened in the top 10, earning an estimated $3.8 million to finish in eighth place. No one had high expecations for this sequel to Rowan Atkinson's 2003 spy spoof, but Universal is probably not too disappointed. The movie has already been open for a month overseas, where it's earned about $100 million. That's similar to the way the first movie performed. So the American release is almost an afterthought.
On the indie front, 'The Mighty Macs' was supposed to follow 'Dolphin Tale' and 'Courageous' in attracting a faith-based audience to its tale of a women's basketball team at a Catholic college. It did not, opening with just $1.1 million on 975 screens. That's just $1,090 per screen, numbers that are far from mighty. On the other hand, the similarly alliterative 'Martha Marcy May Marlene,' the Sundance favorite about a young woman who's a member of a scary cult, earned a stunning $34,385 per screen. Playing on four screens, that's just $137,541 so far, but an average like that bodes well for the movie's future as it expands into more theaters. Meanwhile, the financial drama 'Margin Call' grossed $582,000 from 56 venues, good for a per-screen average of $10,393. That was the fourth highest average in the top-30, behind only 'Martha Marcy May Marlene,' 'Paranormal Activity 3' and weekend two of Pedro Almodovar's 'The Skin I Live In.'
'Paranormal's smash success wasn't enough to reverse the slump of recent weeks. Box office for October is still nearly 12 percent off the same month last year. Box office for the year is down nearly four percent from last year, at $8.63 billion, compared to $8.299 billion a year ago.
The full top 10:
1. 'Paranormal Activity 3,' $54.0 million (3,321 screens), new release
2. 'Real Steel,' $11.3 million (3,412), $67.2 million total
3. 'Footloose,' $10.9 million (3,555) $30.9 million
4. 'The Three Musketeers,' $8.8 million (3.017), new release
5. 'The Ides of March,' $4.9 million (2,042), $29.2 million
6. 'Dolphin Tale,' $4.2 million (2,858), $64.4 million
7. 'Moneyball,' $4.1 million (2,353), $63.7 million
8. 'Johnny English Reborn,' $3.8 (1,552), new release
9. 'The Thing,' $3.1 million (2,995), $14.1 million
10. '50/50,' $2.8 million (1,932), $28.8 million
[Photos: Paramount, Universal]
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