‘Paranormal’ scares away B.O. competish

Sequel beats expectations with $41.5 mil

Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity 2” is already showing scary good return on investment in its first weekend of release, exceeding industry expectations with an estimated opening weekend perf of $63.6 million worldwide.

In the biggest opening ever for a horror pic in the U.S., “Paranormal Activity 2” took $41.5 million from 3,216 domestic runs.

Pic was made for about $3 million; its budget certainly exceeded the first installment, a testament to microbudget filmmaking at $15,000.

Meanwhile, the studio delivered a one-two punch as “Jackass 3D” crashed into an estimated $21.6 million in its soph sesh after a record-setting debut weekend. The 3D pic held steady, dropping just 57%, which marks a solid hold given that its core younger aud typically turns out opening weekend.

Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” from Warners tallied an estimated $12 million at 2,181 locations. The pic expanded from last weekend’s limited six-theater engagement, for a domestic cume of $12.3 million.

The Eastwood pic faced toughcompetish from other adult-skewing holdovers, including Summit’s “Red,” which dropped a respectable 31% in its second outing, earning an estimated $15 million. “Red” has so far taken a hearty $43.5 million domestically.

“Hereafter,” budgeted at an estimated $50 million, may have a tougher time recouping its cost, though Eastwood’s pics typically show strong legs. “With Clint, it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” said Dan Fellman, prexy of domestic distribution for Warner.

“Hereafter,” which could be hurt by a C+ CinemaScore appraisal, played overwhelmingly to adult auds, with 80% of ticketbuyers over 30.

“Paranormal 2” also screened at 151 Imax locations, with the format contributing an estimated $2.5 million to the pic’s total, for a solid per-screen average of $17,000. Par’s scarer sequel far outstripped its predecessor, which posted $21.1 million during its initial wide expansion the same weekend last year, and topped the previous horror record-holder, Warner Bros.’ 2009 redo “Friday the 13th,” which had a three-day gross of $40.6 million.

On the international front, Par mounted an aggressive day-and-date rollout for “Paranormal 2,” debuting the film in 21 markets, where it mostly outperformed the first pic, with a total estimated at $22.1 million from 2,913 screens. The five-day take in the U.K. reached $6.3 million, while Australian auds shelled out $2.7 million during the pic’s first three days of release, beating the original there by 5%.

As with the first installment, Paramount continued to encourage fanboys and genre junkies to spread the word virally.

“Instead of approaching (the marketing) as you would on a big tentpole or sequel, the campaign was done by giving the online fans … clues and pieces of information about the movie before they saw it on any advertising materials,” noted Par vice chairman Rob Moore, referring to the studio’s stunt of distributing unmarked flash drives to blogs and media outlets featuring short clips from the film.

Par kick-started the sequel’s domestic run with a record-setting $6.3 million from 1,800 midnight screenings, for the highest ever R-rated midnight take and the new latenight benchmark for an October release. “Paranormal 2” beat previous R-rated record holder “Watchmen,” which took in $4.6 million in 2009. Par’s “Jackass 3D” held its $2.5 million record for best October opening for only one week.

Par heavily promoted midnight screenings for “Paranormal 2” with TV spots tubthumping the pic’s Thursday midnight release date.

Without the film’s latenight earnings added to Friday grosses, “Paranormal 2” held steady on Saturday. Warner’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” fell 25% from Friday to Saturday — also not counting the reboot’s midnight earnings — when it launched in late April. The limited Friday-Saturday drop could mean good news for “Paranormal 2” over the long haul, coupled with a B CinemaScore rating, though it will face Lionsgate tentpole “Saw 3D” next week.

“This property for the second time has done something remarkable,” Moore said of “Paranormal 2.” The sequel “tapped into those same fears of the supernatural and what happens at night, with the intimacy of a hand-held camera.”

Directed by Tod Williams, “Paranormal 2” was scripted by Michael R. Perry, Christopher Landon and Tom Pabst, with a story from Perry based on characters by previous helmer Oren Peli. This time around, the franchise picks up with a new family being haunted by sinister spirits.

Despite having two similarly targeted films in the market, Par outperformed expectations with the weekend’s top two performers: “Paranormal 2” and “Jackass 3D.”

About 54% of the “Paranormal 2” aud were femmes, while 61% of filmgoers were under 25. This means the scarer played most closely with “Jackass 3D” for the week, which broadened beyond its usual young male core to include women. Par said it expects “Jackass 3D” to surpass the $100 million benchmark domestically; cume stands at an estimated $87.1 million.

The studio’s “Jackass” franchise also has a high profitability potential, as “Jackass 3D” cost just less than $20 million to produce.

“Red” has cumed $43.5 million Stateside. Pic took an estimated $7.1 million in an international rollout this weekend in 19 territories.

Holdovers proving sturdy in repeat frames include Sony’s “The Social Network,” Disney’s “Secretariat” and a trio from Warner — “Life as We Know It,” “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole” and “The Town.”

“Social Network,” which posted an estimated $7.3 million, fell just 29% in its fourth week for a total of $72.9 million, while “Secretariat” has cumed $37.4 million in three weeks of release. “Secretariat” dropped 26% this weekend, grossing $6.9 million.

Also entering its third frame, “Life as We Know It” has earned an estimated $37.6 million so far, down 31% this weekend, with “Legend” and “The Town” totaling $50.2 million and $84.7 million, respectively. “Legend” dropped a mere 25% in its fifth outing, benefiting as one of the week’s few family-friendly pics, while “The Town” continued to hold well, dropping 32% in its sixth week.

Sony/Screen Gems’ laffer holdover “Easy A” rounded out the frame’s top 10, with the weekend’s perf ($1.8 million) boosting domestic totals to nearly $55 million.

The weekend was relatively quiet on the specialty front. Sony Pictures Classics expanded Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” to 402 locations, up from 118 last weekend, taking in an estimated $461,155. Pic averaged a soft $1,147 per screen. Also in an aggressive limited run, Freestyle Releasing’s “N-Secure” entered its soph sesh at 445 locations, totaling $655,930 and a per-screen average of $1,474.

The Metropolitan Opera continued live transmissions in its fifth season, showcasing this weekend Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov” for an estimated $1.8 million and attendance at 80,000 in North America. The live transmission also was seen in 33 overseas countries, totaling more than 60,000 additional patrons in attendance.

The weekend’s top international players included Universal’s 3D toon “Despicable Me,” which tallied an estimated $19.8 million from 39 territories on 4,800 screens. Toon benefited from a successful counterprogramming bid in the U.K., playing opposite “Paranormal 2” with $4.3 million, down just 27% from last week’s debut. Overall, “Despicable Me” is poised to cross the $200 million benchmark internationally this week.

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