$41.5 Mil 'Paranormal' Scares 'Jackass' From No. 1 at Weekend Box Office

Paramount took a chance on poltergeists and pranksters and ended up ruling the weekend box office.

Paramount's Paranormal Activity 2 had a spooky-good weekend, topping the domestic box office with an estimated $41.5 million in the best debut ever by a horror film.

The tally was at least a third better than prophesized for the haunted-house prequel and beat its franchise predecessor's bow running away. But it was never really a contest, due to the fright pics' vastly different release strategies.

Paranormal Activity opened in September 2009 with $77,873 from just 12 theaters, part of a low-profile launch prior to the micro-budgeted original's wide expansion. A year ago this past weekend, Paranormal topped domestic rankings with a $21 million session en route to an eventual $107.9 million domestic haul.

Paranormal 2 unspooled in 3,216 locations, with most programming midnight Thursday performances as part of a $20 million Friday. The prequel collected more coin during its first weekend than its predecessor rang up in its first four weeks and wiped from the record books a $40.6 million bow by 2009 horror pic Friday the 13th.

Produced for just $3 million, Paranormal 2 relied on a low-wattage cast with location costs limited to a haunted house, while its faux video-camera look skirted pricey lensing. Helmed by Tod Williams (The Door in the Floor), the R-rated pic drew mostly positive reviews from critics and attracted first-day audiences comprised 54% of females, with 61% of patrons under age 25.

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"The first Paranormal was like making something out of thin air," Paramount exec vp distribution Don Harris said. "With the prequel, they were able to make a movie that got a stunning number of positive reviews."

The outsize bow by Paranormal 2 -- including $2.5 million from 151 high-grossing Imax specialty venues -- underscores the difficulty in forecasting the market strength of Internet-buzz pictures, especially with second installments in youth-targeting franchises.

Before its launch, some dismissed the solid prerelease interest expressed in tracking surveys and predicted the prequel would flop like Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, a disappointing $13.2 million debutante in 2000. But with the Paranormal series suffering no such burn-out, the only question now is how quickly Paramount will scratch up the pocket change required to produce a threequel.

"The company is certainly going to take a look at making a third but will be exceedingly careful in how to go about it," Harris said.
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Elsewhere among the top rankings, Jackass 3D -- Paramount's chart-topper from a week earlier -- dropped 57% in its sophomore session to register $21.6 million, with the silver-medal performance piling cumulative coin for the dangerous-pranks threequel to $87.1 million. Summit Entertainment's action comedy RED faded by 31% in its second weekend with $15 million in third place and cume of $43.5 million.

Warner Bros. broadened the Clint Eastwood-helmed fantasy drama Hereafter to wide release to 2,181 engagements after a single frame of limited play to cop $12 million in fourth place. Cume for the Matt Damon starrer rose to $12.3 million.

"I'm happy with the way we got off the mark," Warners distribution topper Dan Fellman said.

Rated PG-13, Hereafter attracted audiences comprised 58% of females, with 80% of patrons aged 30 or older. So far, the pic is playing best in the biggest U.S. markets and struggling a bit in the South and some other regional pockets.

Disney execs took heart in another solid session for Secretariat, which slid a modest 26% to post $6.9 million in sixth place. That helped Secretariat leg it to $37.4 million through three frames, despite the sports drama's stuttering start.

Collectively, the weekend top 10 rung up $118.1 million, or 17% more than top performers in the same frame last year, Rentrak said.

In a notable platform campaign, Fox Searchlight's Hilary Swank starrer Conviction added 44 theaters during the weekend for a total 55 and rang up $300,000, or a solid $5,455 per venue. That brought the legal drama's cume to $441,123 ahead of a scheduled expansion to 500-plus locations on Friday.

Meantime, Paranomal 2 is expected to prove a one-week wonder, as next weekend's lone wide opener targets its audience head-on. Lionsgate's seventh installment in its slasher franchise, Saw 3D, is expected to quickly displace the supernatural fright pic.

Originally, Paranormal 2 and Saw 3D both had been set to open during the past weekend. But Lionsgate ultimately opted to delay its pic by one frame, and as a result Saw 3D will debut during the coming Halloween session.

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