Box Office Preview: 'Paranormal 4' to Scare Off Holdovers 'Taken 2,' 'Argo'

Paranormal Activity 4 Still - H 2012

Paranormal Activity 4 Still - H 2012

"Alex Cross," featuring Tyler Perry as the classic detective made famous by James Patterson, also opens at the domestic box office.

Paramount's Paranormal Activity 4 should have little trouble winning the weekend race after opening in theaters Thursday night, though it might not debut as high as the previous two titles in the Halloween horror franchise, at least domestically.

Studio insiders say there is much more competition in the marketplace this October as a number of films -- including holdovers Taken 2, Argo, Hotel Transylvania and last weekend's new horror offering Sinister -- continue to overperform. And there's always the possibility of franchise fatigue.

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Paranormal 4 marks Paramount's return to action after standing on the sidelines for much of the summer. But the quiet period has ended: The studio has seven more releases between now and year's end.

Tracking suggests that Paranormal 4 will open in the mid-$30 million range. Last October, Paranormal Activity 3 opened to $52.6 million, a series best and a record for a horror title. Two years ago, Paranormal 2 debuted to $40.7 milion, and the more bullish box-office observers believe Paranormal 4 could hit that mark.

Paranormal 4, made for $5 million, is expected to make a strong showing overseas this weekend, where it opens in a number of key markets. And Paramount is confident that the film will remain strong domestically next weekend as Halloween approaches.

The microbudgeted Paranormal franchise, guided by Paramount and Jason Blum's Blumhouse, has reaped enormous profits for all involved. The first three films, made on a combined shoestring budget of $8 million, have grossed north of $576 million worldwide.

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The fourth outing takes place five years after Paranormal 2, which ended with Katie (franchise star Katie Featherston) kidnapping her nephew.

The weekend's only other new wide release is Summit Entertainment's Alex Cross, starring Tyler Perry as the D.C. detective featured in James Patterson's book series. Directed by Rob Cohen, the film features Matthew Fox as a serial killer pursued by Cross.

QED International fully financed and produced the film. Summit has domestic rights, while Entertainment One is handling Canada.

Alex Cross marks a departure for Perry, and the big question is whether his fanbase will follow him. Tracking suggests the film will open in the low-teen millions. Morgan Freeman has played Alex Cross twice, in Kiss the Girls and Here Comes the Spider.

In marketing Alex Cross, Summit targeted both Perry's fans and fans of Patterson's books.