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Ghosts vs. gross at box office

Paramount's 'Paranormal,' 'Jackass' face off

Paramount has its hands full this weekend, launching scarer sequel “Paranormal Activity 2” at 3,216 locations, including midnight runs nationwide on Thursday, while also serving up seconds of B.O. hit “Jackass 3D,” which far outstripped expectations last weekend with a $50 million opening.

The Par pair could cannibalize each other, however, as both are aimed at younger auds. “Jackass” played best to young males, but also had a surprising turnout among women under 25, often the strongest demo for horror films.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros. looks to entice adult auds as it expands Clint Eastwood’s supernatural drama “Hereafter” to 2,181. The studio kicked off a limited rollout last weekend at six engagements, grossing $220,322 for a robust per-screen average of $36,720. Pic went out Wednesday in San Francisco and Chicago to build critical support and further develop word of mouth.

Adult-skewing holdovers “Red” and “Secretariat,” which also is playing to families, could divide auds’ attention. “Red” has cumed $26.9 million, with domestic totals for “Secretariat” at $29.6 million.

With the exception of a few notable expansions, the weekend looks relatively quiet on the specialty front.

Fox Searchlight widens Hilary Swank starring biopic “Conviction” to 55 locations after a modest bow last weekend, averaging $9,305 from 11 screens, while Sony Pictures Classics’ Woody Allen-helmed “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” nearly triples its location count, expanding to 402. Cume to date is $1.3 million domestically.

Overseas auds also will get a look at Par’s “Paranormal” as the studio mounts an extensive day-and-date rollout for the film, starting in markets including Australia, France, Italy, Germany, Mexico and the U.K.

Paramount prepped for the pic’s worldwide release with several marketing initiatives that proved successful for the first “Paranormal Activity,” including the online demand-it style program.

The studio hosted free midnight screenings Wednesday in the top 20 U.S. markets. Hollywood’s ArcLight Cinema saw enthusiastic turnouts of more than 2,000 moviegoers, with some lining up at noon.

Par hopes to catch lightning in a bottle twice but has expectations nearer to the original’s initial wide expansion, which grossed $21 million the same weekend last year. During that frame, “Paranormal Activity” beat fellow horror pic “Saw VI,” which debuted in second place with $14.1 million.

The two franchises were faced with a similar showdown this year before Lionsgate moved “Saw 3D” to a less favorable Oct. 29 berth. Halloween typically sees a B.O. slowdown as moviegoers are at parties or trick or treating.

Lionsgate’s move also added breathing room on the 3D front for Par’s “Jackass” holdover, which scored strong exit polls opening weekend that should bode well in repeat frames.

Budgeted at $3 million, up from the first pic’s $15,000 pricetag, “Paranormal Activity 2” centers on a different family also haunted by sinister spirits in their home. Tod Williams takes over helming duties from Oren Peli, who co-produced the sequel with Jason Blum. Michael R. Perry has scripting credits.

Warner’s “Hereafter” could serve as counterprogramming to “Paranormal Activity 2,” tempting mostly adult moviegoers. “Hereafter,” toplining Matt Damon, started out similar to most Eastwood pics, launching in limited release to build aud support. “Gran Torino” bowed at six locations in December 2008 before earning a boffo $29.5 million during its first week in wide release. Most B.O. observers, however, expect “Hereafter” to perform more like Eastwood’s “Changeling,” which Universal also released in 2008. That pic went wide in its soph sesh, with a softer $9.4 million from 1,850. According to Warner, strong midweek perfs suggest “Hereafter” could ultimately do better.

Aside from “Red” and “Secretariat,” adults continue to turn out for Sony’s “The Social Network.” The film dropped 29% last weekend and enters its fourth frame with a domestic cume of $64.8 million through Wednesday.

In limited release, IFC debuts “Inhale,” with Dermot Mulroney, Diane Kruger and Sam Shepard, at two locations, while Screen Media’s musical “Rising Stars” launches at three Stateside engagements.

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