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'Paranormal Activity 2' Likely to Scare Up $18-22 Million at Box Office

Box-office expectations have levitated for the second installment in Paramount's low-budget Paranormal Activity franchise.

Production costs on Paranormal Activity 2 also rose from the $15,000 in pocket change and candy wrappers spent to produce its predecessor. Paramount shelled out a whopping $1 million-plus to produce the prequel to last year's sleeper hit that grossed $108 million.

Unspooling in more than 3,000 domestic locations, Paranormal 2 looks likely to conjure $18 million-$22 million through Sunday. That should be plenty to justify marketing costs of $25 million or so, with foreign grosses and ancillary revenue also likely to be substantial.

Like the original, the R-rated prequel is expected to play mostly to younger crowds and skew a bit female. Unlike the first pic, Paranormal 2 is expected to do most of its business during its opening weekend, which will be padded by screenings at midnight Thursday in most locations.

"You have to go after it like a regular movie and build your marketing on that basis," Paramount executive vp distribution Don Harris said. "So I think it's mostly about the opening weekend."

Paranormal Activity creeped into the marketplace with just $77,873 from 12 theaters during its low-profile launch in September 2009. Within three weeks of that Internet-hyped limited bow, the micro-budgeted franchise-starter had widened to 760 theaters and $33 million in cumulative coin amid broadening buzz among more mainstream moviegoers.

The first Paranormal also copped $85.4 million in foreign lucre. Paranormal 2 bows this week in 21 international territories.

As for whether it can open at No. 1, its main competition is a holdover from ... Paramount.

In fact, perhaps this weekend's most intriguing question among box-office watchers is whether the sophomore-session decline for Paramount's Jackass 3D will prove as remarkably hefty as its surprising $50.4 million bow.

Such youthful and fan-driven movies often drop 65%-70% from their first-frame tallies, and there is little reason to believe the Jackass threequel will escape a similar fate. Paramount's scheduling of the Paranormal 2 opening for this frame suggests that its executives expect a quick burnout by the dangerous-pranks pic; a 70% drop would yield a $15 million frame and prevent Jackass 3D from repeating at No. 1.

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Also this weekend, Warner Bros. widens Clint Eastwood's Matt Damon starrer "Hereafter" to 2,181 locations after one session of limited play. The fantasy-tinged drama rang up $220,322 from six theaters, or an auspicious $36,720 per venue.

As usual for Eastwood pics, Hereafter attracted mostly older audiences during its first frame. So in keeping with its established strategy, Warners will attempt to run a successful marathon built on a smattering of critical faves included among mixed-to-positive reviews of the film.

"Clint has a following among people who are interested in film," Warners distribution topper Dan Fellman said.

Damon's fan base should help the PG-13 pic as well.

"I think it's going to have a good opening and legs and will play into the awards season," Fellman said.

Industrywide, this session will be compared with a $116 million weekend last year topped by the $14.1 million bow of Lionsgate's Saw VI. A seventh installment in the slasher franchise, Saw 3D, had been set to hit multiplexes this session until Lionsgate moved it back to next weekend, which features a Halloween Sunday.

Year to date, industry box office is pacing 3% ahead of 2009, at $8.48 billion. But the average ticket price has risen about 5% since a year ago, meaning admissions are in decline.