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


"The company is certainly going to take a look at making a third ('Paranormal Activity') but will be exceedingly careful in how to go about it." -- Don Harris, Paramount exec vp distribution

"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.