Par scarer comes in under estimates, short of predecessors to earn $30 mil at domestic B.O.

Paramount returned from a 15 week dry spell with a global-best $56.7 million for “Paranormal Activity 4,” the microbudget franchise that’s billowing overseas but showing signs of giving up the ghost at home.

The chiller’s $30.2 million domestic haul lagged estimates by at least $5 million, not to mention the high bar set by prior installments: “Paranormal Activity 3″ opened to $52.6 million and “Paranormal Activity 2,” which observers cite as a better comp, bowed to $40.7 million. But “4” got freaky overseas, where first place openings in nine territories including Australia, Germany and Mexico floated the in ternational haul up 11.5% from “Paranormal 3″ and 28% over “Paranormal 2.”

“We’re focused a lot on that international growth,” said Megan Colligan, Par’s domestic marketing and distribution prexy. She added that despite lower-than-expected returns, the studio is pretty pleased with the film’s performance. “The fact of the matter is, if we could make $5 million movies that open to $30 million every week, we’d make them,” she said.

This frame’s other wide opener, “Alex Cross” from Summit, also wound up on the low end of expectations with $11.8 million.

Aud composition for the thriller closely resembled that of previous Tyler Perry starrers, despite the fact that the multi-hyphenate didn’t direct or produce. As for potential crossover appeal from James Patterson fans, that crowd may show in greater numbers in coming weeks.

Summit distribution topper Richie Fay attributed the frame’s underperformances to the strength of recent holdovers, namely “Argo” (see sidebar) and “Sinister.” Other holdovers demonstrated strong legs with low week-over-week percentage drops. Sony’s “Hotel Transylvania” fell just 22% and Universal’s “Pitch Perfect” fell 24%, in addition to “Argo’s” record-breaking 15% drop.

In its soph sesh, “Sinister,” also from “Paranormal” franchise producer Jason Blum, dropped just 50%, a good hold given the genre. In the last two years, Par’s “Paranormal” entries haven’t been preceded by another horror film in the same month.

Scarers traditionally have shorter-than-average legs, particular this “Paranormal” with almost 40% of Friday’s gross coming from late Thursday night screenings. With “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D” opening next weekend, “Paranormal 4″ likely had its heyday this weekend.

Par has already greenlit a fifth installment to the franchise, as well as a bilingual spinoff catering to the Latino community and Spanish-speaking markets worldwide to bow early 2013. There is no word yet whether Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman, directors of the last two entries who were scooped up by Par after helming tonally-similar docu “Catfish,” will be back for round five.

The partially Spanish-language spinoff is largely a response to strong Latino interest in the franchise and in the horror genre in general. The offshoot is teased by a brief, post-credit scene in “Paranormal 4″ to spark online conversation, a routine marketing strategy for the franchise.

Only last week, Imax signed on to screen “Paranormal 4″ in the premium format, contributing $1.9 million, or between 6% and 7%, of the film’s total gross.

Marking Par’s return to the 2012 slate, “Paranormal 4″ is the first of eight films the studio will release between now and the end of December, nearly three times as many as any other studio in the same time frame.

On four screens, “The Sessions” unspooled with a per screen average of $30,000, roughly in the center of pre-weekend expectations. Distributor Fox Searchlight will be adding five additional markets next weekend, which will be a crowded sesh with openers including Warner Bros.’ “Cloud Atlas,” Fox’s “Chasing Mavericks,” Open Road’s “Silent Hill” sequel and Par’s “Fun Size.”

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