Weekend Box Office (October 19 - 21, 2012)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Just like its two predecessors, Paranormal Activity 4 opened at number one in its pre-Halloween launch but showed signs of audience erosion too. The weekend's only other new wide release was the cop thriller Alex Cross starring Tyler Perry which did not impress and barely made the top five. Most holdovers enjoyed small declines as the overall marketplace remained healthy with the top ten films collecting over $100M in ticket sales for the fourth consecutive weekend.

Paramount took over the top spot with its horror sequel Paranormal Activity 4 which bowed to $29M, according to final studio figures, including grosses from its first shows which started on Thursday night at 9pm. The R-rated franchise film debuted in 3,412 theaters including 286 IMAX venues and averaged a solid $8,501. The opening fell a steep 45% from the $52.6M of last year's third part which broke the record for the biggest October debut. It was also down 29% from the $40.7M of Paranormal Activity 2 from the previous year. Fright franchises usually see fans disappear as they age, especially with a fourth chapter, so the new film was never expected to reach the heights of part 3. But it still shows that many fans who liked the home video scares of previous films did not find the new chapter worthy of seeing.

Studio research showed that the audience was split evenly between males and females while 60% were under 25. The CinemaScore grade was a C which was slightly worse than the C+ of its predecessor. For Paramount, Paranormal Activity 4 represented the studio's first live-action film to open at number one since the horror pic The Devil Inside from the first weekend of this year.

Overseas results were better with some markets showing growth over previous installments. The new film grossed $26.5M from international markets this weekend making for a global debut of $56M led by the U.K., Russia, and Australia. With a low $5M production cost, the latest Activity will once again become a very profitable project despite the loss of interest from consumers. It would not be surprising to see more chapters.

Oscar hopeful Argo enjoyed a terrific hold in its second weekend dropping only 16% to $16.4M putting the Ben Affleck film at $43M after ten days. Warner Bros. may just go on to break the $100M mark if it continues to see legs like these. With glowing reviews, incredibly high exit scores from audiences, no new direct competition, an older-skewing audience, and plenty of Oscar talk, Argo managed to hold up remarkably well and will try to keep staying relevant in the weeks ahead.

Liam Neeson's hit sequel Taken 2 joined the century club this weekend after grossing $13.3M in its third round, down 39%, for a $105.8M cume for Fox. It's already the studio's second highest-grossing live-action film of the year after Prometheus. The 3D toon Hotel Transylvania followed with $13M for a slim 25% decline and $118.5M total for Sony.

Anchoring his first film not based on his own material, Tyler Perry generated a lackluster debut for his detective thriller Alex Cross with $11.4M. The PG-13 film averaged a moderate $4,489 from 2,539 locations and failed to beat out the openings of the previous two films based on the same character which were released many years ago when ticket prices were much less. 1997's Kiss the Girls bowed to $13.2M while 2001's Along Came a Spider debuted to $16.7M. Both starred Morgan Freeman in the main role. Comparing admissions, Cross brought out roughly half as many people on opening weekend as Girls did.

Studio research showed that the Summit film played much like a Tyler Perry film. 60% of the audience was female, 68% was over 35, and 74% was African American. The CinemaScore grade was an encouraging A. But only a portion of his loyal audience came out as almost all of Perry's previous films have opened bigger, and in fewer theaters.

The horror film Sinister fared well despite the arrival of the latest chapter from today's most popular fright franchise. The Summit pic fell 51% to $8.8M for a solid $31.7M in ten days. Kevin James took seventh place with his latest offering, the PG-rated comedy Here Comes the Boom, which dropped 29% to $8.4M. Sony has collected a disappointing $23.1M after ten days. Universal's a cappella comedy Pitch Perfect was next with $6.8M, down 27%, and a $45.5M sum.

Struggling to keep up, Disney's Frankenweenie finished in ninth place with $4.3M falling by 39% to a total of only $28.2M. Rounding out the top ten was the sci-fi hit Looper with $4.2M in its fourth weekend. Sony has banked $57.8M to date.

The indie comedy The Sessions got off to a potent start platforming in New York and Los Angeles to $113,467 from only four sites for a sturdy $28,367 average. The sex surrogate pic starring Helen Hunt and William H. Macy scored sensational reviews across the board and is hoping to become a contender this winter during awards season. Fox Searchlight certainly got off to a great start and will expand on Friday to five additional markets including San Francisco, Toronto, and Chicago.

The top ten films grossed $115.6M which was up 10% from last year when Paranormal Activity 3 debuted at number one with $52.6M; and off a scant 1% from 2010 when Paranormal Activity 2 opened on top with $40.7M.

Compared to projections, Paranormal Activity 4 opened below my $41M forecast while Alex Cross was a couple of notches below my $14M prediction.

Get earlier box office updates and analysis by following BoxOfficeGuru.com on Twitter.

Check the UPDATED chart for the Top October Openings.

For a review of Argo visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Cloud Atlas, Silent Hill: Revelation, Fun Size, and Chasing Mavericks all open.

# Title Oct 19 - 21 Oct 12 - 14 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Paranormal Activity 4 $ 29,003,866 3,412 1 $ 8,501 $ 29,003,866 Paramount
2 Argo 16,445,475 19,458,109 -15.5 3,247 2 5,065 43,011,964 Warner Bros.
3 Taken 2 13,260,870 21,873,127 -39.4 3,489 3 3,801 105,832,339 Fox
4 Hotel Transylvania 13,001,434 17,241,317 -24.6 3,384 4 3,842 118,522,389 Sony
5 Alex Cross 11,396,768 2,539 1 4,489 11,396,768 Summit
6 Sinister 8,815,475 18,007,934 -51.0 2,542 2 3,468 31,735,643 Summit
7 Here Comes the Boom 8,407,201 11,816,596 -28.9 3,014 2 2,789 23,131,529 Sony
8 Pitch Perfect 6,756,430 9,266,940 -27.1 2,660 4 2,540 45,516,778 Universal
9 Frankenweenie 4,329,358 7,054,334 -38.6 2,362 3 1,833 28,238,779 Disney
10 Looper 4,202,687 6,201,665 -32.2 2,223 4 1,891 57,842,819 Sony
11 Seven Psychopaths 3,273,480 4,174,915 -21.6 1,480 2 2,212 9,161,472 CBS
12 The Perks of Being a Wallflower 2,153,247 2,150,064 0.1 745 5 2,890 9,123,872 Summit
13 End of Watch 826,809 1,702,048 -51.4 751 5 1,101 37,895,571 Open Road
14 Trouble with the Curve 729,354 1,555,388 -53.1 925 5 788 34,084,572 Warner Bros.
15 Atlas Shrugged Part II 613,889 1,751,572 -65.0 945 2 650 2,859,980 Atlas
16 The Master 520,677 813,379 -36.0 412 6 1,264 14,738,213 Weinstein Co.
17 House at the End of the Street 468,298 1,310,343 -64.3 746 5 628 30,782,862 Relativity
18 Brave 421,577 469,731 -10.3 277 18 1,522 235,044,709 Disney
19 The Dark Knight Rises 359,509 511,399 -29.7 345 13 1,042 446,764,067 Warner Bros.
20 Student of the Year 326,508 106 1 3,080 326,508 Eros
Top 5 $ 83,108,413 $ 88,397,083 -6.0
Top 10 115,619,564 117,245,001 -1.4
Top 20 125,312,912 126,526,896 -1.0
Top 20 vs. 2011 125,312,912 116,051,538 8.0

Last Updated: October 22, 2012 at 4:30PM ET

Watch Gitesh Pandya's weekly box office preview on CNN International airing live each Thursday at 7:40pm ET.