'Paranormal Activity' scares up record numbers

Audiences fell hard this weekend for the winning combo of Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, with Universal’s “Couples Retreat” earning a surprisingly buoyant $35.3 million at 3,000 playdates.

Zombieland” dropped to second in its soph sesh with $15 million at 3,038, while Sony’s other holdover, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” continued a strong perf in its fourth frame with $12 million at 2,992.

Meanwhile, after a viral marketing campaign brought young horror fans onboard, Paramount has turned “Paranormal Activity” into a genuine phenomenon. The ultra-low-budget pic vaulted to No. 5 for the weekend with $7.1 million at 160, racking up an extremely impressive $44,163 per-screen average.

While Sony Pictures Classics’ fest favorite “An Education” couldn’t quite top the “Paranormal” groundswell, the pic launched with a promising $40,595 per-screen average at four theaters.

Another top player was Disney’s 3D reissue of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2″ with $7.7 million at 1,752 playdates. Declining 39% in its soph sesh, the toon double-bill has cumed $22.7 million in re-release. Disney said it would announce today whether it will extend the pic pair beyond its slated two-week run.

Overseas, Disney/Pixar’s “Up” topped the box office with $21 million, while “Couples Retreat” romanced auds in Australia and New Zealand, grossing $3 million at 228 playdates.

U distribution chief Nikki Rocco described “Couples Retreat” as a nice jump-start after a slow summer for the studio. After lackluster launches for expensive Universal projects like “Land of the Lost” (bowing with $18.8 million) and “Public Enemies” ($25.3 million), “Couples Retreat” became Hollywood’s highest opener on a Columbus Day weekend, besting U’s “Meet the Parents,” which earned $28.6 million at 2,614 engagements in 2000.

Vaughn’s 2008 New Line holiday release “Four Christmases” bowed with a comparable $31.1 million at 3,200 playdates, and U’s “The Break-Up” opened with $39.2 million at 3,070 in 2006. Both pics co-star Favreau, while “The Break-Up” co-starred “Couples Retreat” thesp Jason Bateman.

Rocco made a point of crediting recently departed toppers Marc Shmuger and David Linde for greenlighting “Couples Retreat.”

With an estimated budget of $60 million, the comedy benefited as the frame’s only wide opener. Pic drew an aud that was 61% female, with 56% under 30. It took in $12.6 million Friday, $13.4 million Saturday and an estimated $9.3 million on Sunday. Friday’s takings broke the opening day record for an October live-action comedy previously held by Par/MTV’s 2002 hit “Jackass: The Movie” with $9.7 million.

Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity,” made for less than $16,000, has already cumed a staggering $8.3 million. First released for midnight screenings only, the movie will expand nationwide next week after fans voted in an online poll to bring the film to their cities.

Sony’s “Zombieland” saw a 39% decline from its opening weekend, cuming $47.8 million, while “Cloudy” dropped only 24%. The toon has shown surprising resilience and, with a cume of $96.3 million, will become Sony Animation’s first title to surpass $100 million.

Fox Searchlight’s “Whip It” still couldn’t gain traction with femmes, dropping 40% with an estimated $2.8 million at 1,738 playdates. Warner Bros.’ Ricky Gervais starrer “The Invention of Lying” also saw a sizable drop, declining 52% to $3.4 million at 1,743.

Overture’s Michael Moore docu “Capitalism: A Love Story” saw a 39% drop in its third frame to $2.6 million at 995. With $9.1 million, the docu has become one of the year’s top nonfiction entries, bypassing “Food, Inc.’s” $4.4 million.

On the specialty front, the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man” saw decent numbers as it entered its second frame, earning $446,761 at 21 with a per-screen average of $21,274 — down from last week’s top average of $41,890 at six locations. Focus is rolling the pic out carefully, adding 54 markets next weekend including Atlanta, Denver, Detroit and Houston.

Sony Classics is benefiting from excellent reviews for Brit pickup “An Education,” starring newcomer Carey Mulligan. Pic opened with $162,381 at four locations and will expand nationwide Nov. 2.

The label opened another British pic, soccer drama “The Damned United,” which grossed $36,844 at six locations.

SPC biopic “Coco Before Chanel” put up solid figures in its third frame, with $330,501 at 45 playdates, cuming $905,396.

Lionsgate’s LeBron James docu “More Than a Game” grossed $348,761 at 44 engagements. The docu fell 30% in its third frame.

Roadside Attractions’ launch of Chris Rock-produced docu “Good Hair” performed well, with $1.1 million at 186 playdates, averaging $6,006 per screen. Rock went on an aggressive tour of daytime skeins including “Oprah” and “The View,” touting the docu, about African-American hairstyles.

Roadside also bowed boxing drama “From Mexico With Love,” earning $307,700 at 279 locations.

The Met’s live HD transmission of Puccini’s “Tosca” grossed $2.1 million on Saturday, with an estimated North American attendance of 100,000. Distributor was NCM Fathom.

On the foreign front, “Surrogates,” with $6 million from 27 territories, helped Disney to its fifth straight $30 million-plus weekend, with $36.2 million overseas. The studio’s “Up” debuted in the U.K. with $9.7 million at 550, surpassing the launches of “Wall-E” and “Ratatouille” by 39% and 41%, respectively. “Zombieland” opened second in that territory with $1.9 million at 309 engagements.

In addition to early bows of “Couples Retreat,” which expands to Russia, Ukraine and the U.K. next week, U’s “Fast and Furious” finally opened in Japan with a healthy $2.9 million at 322 playdates. “Inglourious Basterds” took an estimated $8.5 million at 3,170, bringing its overseas total to $154.7 million.

Spanish helmer Alejandro Amenabar’s historical drama “Agora” opened in Spain with $7.3 million at 470 as the country’s biggest local opener in the past two years.

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more