Weekend Box Office (October 22 - 24, 2010)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND Moviegoers were in the mood for a good scare as the supernatural thriller Paranormal Activity 2 topped the North American box office beating out high expectations and generated the biggest opening ever for a horror film in the Halloween month of October. Paramount captured the top two spots as its other fall sequel Jackass 3D fell sharply from its opening last weekend but still kept bringing in the cash with a strong second place finish. The studio's dynamic duo accounted for half of all ticket sales for the Top 20. Clint Eastwood's Hereafter enjoyed a moderate debut in fourth place as it went nationwide while most holdovers in the top ten remained solid with declines of less than 35%.

Following up on 2009's surprise blockbuster, Paranormal Activity 2 debuted at number one with a terrifying $40.7M, according to final studio figures, easily leading all films in the marketplace. The R-rated prequel haunted 3,216 locations and averaged a potent $12,649 with ticket sales being very front-loaded. Friday saw a stunning $20.1M debut including $6.3M from Thursday night's midnight shows, Saturday tumbled by 35% to $13M, and Sunday fell 42% to $7.5M. The first Activity became a phenomenon thanks to its midnight shows which helped to add a creepy feel to the theatrical experience and so the studio aggressively advertised those first shows on Thursday night allowing the Friday gross to account for a whopping 49% of the weekend take.

Still, a massive audience came out allowing the demon-in-the-house pic to inch past the $39.1M debut of 2004's The Grudge which had held the October horror opening record for six years. The Sarah Michelle Gellar pic sold more tickets since prices were lower back then, but it had the advantage of a PG-13 rating and a major star allowing it to reach a broader audience. Breaking $30M on opening weekend is a major feat for a fright flick while surpassing $40M is extremely rare. Last year's Friday the 13th remake held the record for best R-rated horror debut with $40.6M, 48% of which came from Friday which was the 13th of February. Some of M. Night Shyamalan's films have debuted higher, but many would categorize them as dramatic thrillers even though they were marketed as scary movies.

Paranormal Activity 2 essentially offered the same formula as its predecessor with a low-budget, no-star story that revolved around unseen forces spooking a suburban house with home video footage used to document the action. To help generate excitement and let the fans do the selling, Paramount scheduled one free midnight showing in each of 20 top cities on Wednesday night to fuel buzz going into the official release. As with the first, moviegoers were urged to go online and demand the film in their town allowing customers to become more engaged with the product. Favorable reviews from critics also helped. Females made up 54% of the crowd while those under 25 accounted for a very high 61%.

Unlike the first Paranormal which slowly built its fan base and reached the number one spot in its fifth weekend, the second installment went wide right from the start. The opening nearly doubled the $21.1M that the last film grossed when it hit the top spot with what was the largest weekend gross of its entire run on its way to a $107.9M final. While it is too early to tell if the new film can match that cume, it certainly will be an extremely profitable movie thanks to a tiny $3M production cost. Marketing costs were much more though. Activity 2 should take a big hit next weekend when Lionsgate unleashes Saw 3D, the seventh and final chapter of the torture franchise which has ruled the Halloween season during most of the last six years.

Following its record-breaking opening, Jackass 3D suffered an expected large sophomore drop but still pulled in solid numbers grossing $21.3M this weekend. The Paramount release has locked down an impressive $86.9M and has quickly become the top-grossing movie of this fall season after a mere ten days. Johnny Knoxville and company saw sales drop by 58% which was large but understandable given the front-loaded nature of three-quels. In fact, a fall of 60% or more would not have been surprising so the hold was good.

Jackass: Number Two, which dropped by 50% in the second weekend, collected 72% of its eventual $72.8M final in the first ten days. Helped by extra surcharges, Jackass 3D should erode by a slightly faster pace and could end up in the vicinity of $120M which would be $100M more than its production cost.

Among non-Viacom films, Red led the charge with $15M finishing in third place in its second weekend. The PG-13 action comedy starring Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, and Helen Mirren declined by only 31% and boosted its ten-day tally to a solid $43.5M. A final gross in the area of $80M seems likely. The Summit release cost $58M to produce (after subsidies are realized) and is playing to a mature adult audience so legs could remain strong.

Also targeting the older crowd was Clint Eastwood's latest drama Hereafter starring new dad (again) Matt Damon which expanded nationwide to the tune of $12M. The Warner Bros. tale of people from three parts of the world with their own connections to the afterlife averaged a decent $5,510 from 2,181 locations after playing in just six houses last weekend. Cume to date is $12.3M. Films Eastwood directs but does not star in generally depend on favorable reviews but Hereafter earned only mixed marks. Oscar buzz has been virtually non-existent for this entry, but the performance did beat out the first wide weekend tallies for the 80-year-old director's Invictus ($8.6M), Changeling ($9.4M), and Flags of Our Fathers ($10.2M).

Oscar hopeful The Social Network followed in fifth place with $7.3M sliding just 30% as it continues to show remarkable strength in its fourth frame. Sony has banked $72.9M to date and still has an outside chance of hitting $100M if the Facebook pic can still hold up this well in the coming weeks. Also displaying great legs with audiences was Secretariat which dipped only 25% to $7M for a $37.4M cume in 17 days for Disney.

Rounding out the rest of this weekend's robust top ten were four films that also dropped by less than 35% each. Off 32% in its third round was the parenting comedy Life As We Know It with $6.1M and $37.6M total for Warner Bros. The studio's kidpic Legend of the Guardians took in $3.2M, down just 23%, raising the sum to $50.2M.

Ben Affleck's crime drama The Town fell 31% to $2.7M putting Warner Bros. at $84.7M thus far. The Emma Stone comedy Easy A placed tenth with $1.7M, down 34%, and a solid $54.8M for Sony to date.

The top ten films grossed $117.2M which was up 16% from last year when Paranormal Activity climbed into the top spot in its fifth weekend with $21.1M; and up 1% from 2008 when High School Musical 3: Senior Year debuted at number one with $42M.

Compared to projections, Paranormal Activity 2 surged ahead of my $30M forecast while Hereafter was on target with my $12M prediction.

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

For a Blu-Ray review of Beauty and the Beast, visit The Chief Report.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for a complete summary, including projections, for next weekend when Saw 3D arrives as the only new wide release over Halloween weekend.

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# Title Oct 22 - 24 Oct 15 - 17 % Chg. Theaters Weeks AVG Cumulative Distributor
1 Paranormal Activity 2 $ 40,678,424 3,216 1 $ 12,649 $ 40,678,424 Paramount
2 Jackass 3D 21,313,815 50,353,641 -57.7 3,111 2 6,851 86,861,041 Paramount
3 Red 15,034,916 21,761,408 -30.9 3,273 2 4,594 43,518,185 Summit
4 Hereafter 12,018,147 220,322 2,181 1 5,510 12,333,504 Warner Bros.
5 The Social Network 7,276,972 10,317,395 -29.5 2,921 4 2,491 72,907,728 Sony
6 Secretariat 7,001,159 9,318,886 -24.9 3,108 3 2,253 37,444,068 Buena Vista
7 Life As We Know It 6,136,454 8,955,409 -31.5 3,019 3 2,033 37,601,835 Warner Bros.
8 Legend of the Guardians 3,248,019 4,228,236 -23.2 2,236 5 1,453 50,244,733 Warner Bros.
9 The Town 2,749,090 3,977,006 -30.9 1,918 6 1,433 84,681,614 Warner Bros.
10 Easy A 1,748,906 2,633,456 -33.6 1,632 6 1,072 54,784,148 Sony
11 Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps 1,244,851 2,363,166 -47.3 1,255 5 992 50,001,986 Fox
12 My Soul to Take 1,072,515 3,170,310 -66.2 1,689 3 635 13,985,795 Universal
13 Waiting for "Superman" 774,502 742,725 4.3 290 5 2,671 3,704,280 Paramount
14 Alpha and Omega 727,103 823,085 -11.7 727 6 1,000 23,512,875 Lionsgate
15 It's Kind of a Funny Story 677,162 1,223,455 -44.7 560 3 1,209 5,109,189 Focus
16 You Again 650,902 1,215,987 -46.5 901 5 722 24,051,083 Buena Vista
17 Devil 642,035 976,005 -34.2 642 6 1,000 32,437,925 Universal
18 N-Secure 551,096 1,166,406 -52.8 445 2 1,238 1,964,477 Freestyle
19 Inception 500,140 348,326 43.6 452 15 1,107 290,381,264 Warner Bros.
20 Toy Story 3 472,842 534,680 -11.6 350 19 1,351 413,485,965 Buena Vista
Top 5 $ 96,322,274 $ 100,706,739 -4.4
Top 10 117,205,902 117,078,913 0.1
Top 20 124,519,050 126,147,075 -1.3
Top 20 vs. 2009 124,519,050 110,892,556 12.3

Last Updated: October 25, 2010 at 5:00PM ET

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