Weekend Box Office: Abnormal Activity for a Horror Franchise

Horror sequels usually make money, but it’s rare to see a franchise’s third installment break the series opening record by $14 million, raking in a total of $54 million – $8 million of which came from Thursday night midnight showings.

The ‘Paranormal Activity’ franchise is every studio’s dream. Each year, you make one movie for almost nothing. (The new installment, ‘Paranormal Activity 3‘, is the most expensive so far on a production budget of only $5 million.) You don’t have to deal with demanding actors or directors, and the films gross huge numbers. Hell, you don’t even have to write a fresh new script. Tweak the concept a tad and you’re set. It’s like the ‘Hangover’ of horror movies – and this one just broke the record set by ‘Jackass 3-D’ for biggest October opening of all time.

With its cheap viral marketing campaign and a $15,000 budget (rumored to be around $4 million after Spielberg stuck his hand in it and changed the ending), the first ‘Paranormal Activity‘ earned $19 million in the first weekend of its wide release. One year later, ‘Paranormal Activity 2‘ debuted with $40.6 million. And now, another year later, ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ opens with $54 million. Compare that to the seven-film ‘Saw’ franchise and you’ll see a completely different trend. The ‘Saw’ respective openings were $18, $31, $33, $31, $30, $14 and $22 million. The third was installment was also the best ‘Saw’ opener, but still $21 million shy of what ‘Paranormal Activity’ has done.

Summit Entertainment is still using the shotgun method of finding its niche. The studio’s newest film is a swashbuckler mixed with fantasy and cheese. ‘The Three Musketeers‘ opened in fourth place with $8.8 million. This is a new low for campy action director Paul W.S. Anderson, his worst since the 1998 Kurt Russell sci-fi flick ‘Soldier’. His two ‘Resident Evil’ movies, ‘Death Race’ and ‘Alien vs. Predator’ all opened bigger than ‘The Three Musketeers’. Even his 1997 ‘Event Horizon’ had a better opening – and that’s not taking into account inflation and the jacked-up 3D ticket prices for ‘The Three Musketeers’.

Despite killing it overseas, ‘Johnny English Reborn‘ opened in eighth place with $3.8 million here. That’s less than half as much as 2003’s original ‘Johnny English’. The first film opened with $9.1 million, but it looks like the Americans who fell for it the first time weren’t about to make that same mistake with ‘Reborn’.

Barely advertised ‘The Mighty Macs‘ opened just off the charts with $1 million from 975 locations. Perhaps the blame for this could be placed on a lack of marketing, the clichéd plot or the 46% Rotten Tomatoes score. Only one movie in the Top 10 has a lower per-screen average than ‘The Mighty Macs’: ‘The Thing‘.

With its 56-screen limited opening, ‘Margin Call‘ was able to pull in $582,000. But the real limited release winners this weekend were ‘Martha Marcy May Marlene‘ and ‘Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey‘. On four screens, ‘Martha’ grossed $138,000 (that’s a $34,500 per-screen average), and on just one screen, ‘Being Elmo’ earned $25,000. So far, ‘The Catechism Cataclysm‘ isn’t on the chart, so we’ll have to wait until the final numbers are in this afternoon to see where it lies – which is never a good omen.

Top 10:

1. ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ (Paramount) – $54,020,000

2. ‘Real Steel’ (Buena Vista) – $11,319,000

3. ‘Footloose’ (Paramount) – $10,850,000

4. ‘The Three Musketeers’ (Summit) – $8,800,000

5. ‘The Ides of March’ (Sony) – $4,900,000

6. ‘Dolphin Tale’ (Warner Bros.) – $4,200,000

7. ‘Moneyball’ (Sony) – $4,050,000

8. ‘Johnny English Reborn’ (Universal) – $3,800,000

9. ‘The Thing’ (Universal) – $3,115,000

10. ’50/50′ (Summit) – $2,800,000


  1. Apparently, Milla Jovovich went on a Twitter rant this weekend, accusing Summit of marketing the Musketeers movie poorly. I do not recommend attempting to read her Twitter feed, however. It’s mostly unintelligible gibberish.

    • Drew

      And she was right on the money for doing so! I’m not saying that I think the the film could have been a major success with the right marketing, but I can’t believe how poorly Summit handled the marketing of it.

      Completely awful!

        • I’m a fan of Paul Anderson’s flicks, not too many are so it doesnt surprise me that most people didnt go see this, but with how popular his RE movies are and how decent they do box office wise I’m also surprised that this didnt much better, but it went up against PA3 which also blew my mind on how much money it made, just dont understand it myself, not a big fan of the series

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