Weekend Box Office: Paranormal Activity Wins But Loses, Argo Remains Solid In Second Week

It’s not only gentlemen who prefer blondes.

This may not be a shocking revelation but the fourth Paranormal Activity debuted at #1. But if its opening weekend performance is any indication, we might only see a few more of these before Paramount calls it quits. It used to be that eight was enough, but horror movies are a different entity. Because once the producers see dollar signs it becomes difficult to want to stop a good thing. Which is why we have multiple Halloweens, Friday the 13th, Saw, and numerous Final Destinations, the last of which has a title that becomes silly by the third movie rolls around. But Paranormal Activity became one of those buzzworthy movies that benefited from smart marketing and word-of-mouth to build its audience from the first and second installments. By the time PA3 came around it was a runaway freight train, earning more than $52 million its opening weekend.

A year later, the release of PA4 arrives the same weekend as the previous two, playing on more than 3400 screens. Yet box office estimates have it pegged to finish with $30M. So what happened? Methinks it was better competition. The same weekend PA3 came out we had Paul W.S. Anderson’s The Three Musketeers and Rowan Atkinson playing Johnny English Reborn. This weekend, opening alongside Activity was Alex Cross starring Tyler Perry. But there are still a number of films playing to strong numbers. And that includes second place finisher Argo.

Argo only had a miniscule drop in attendance, which means that viewership is strong as is the word-or-mouth and watercooler discussion. Last week it opened with $19.5M. This weekend it finished with an estimated $16.7M. That’s only a 14% drop in attendance between the two weekends. The typical drop is in the 40s from one week to the next, but that is all dependent upon how well it opens its first weekend and audience perception that first weekend. The horror genre is the worse as it usually nets 50-60% from first to second weeks. Warner Bros. is undoubtedly pleased by Argo‘s performance. It has been tracking well and with a rare A+ Cinemascore it seems to be playing to both critics and moviegoers equally. Don’t be surprised to see Affleck’s name attached to more projects either financed or distributed by Warner Bros. (we already are, as Affleck’s name has been rumored or discussed to helm WB’s big-screen version of Stephen King’s The Stand, DC Comics’ The Justice League of America, and an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s Live By Night). Affleck is quickly joining the likes of Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese to have their works be as identifiable by the studios that releases them. Both have had a majority of their films released by Warner Bros., but it seems that Scorsese has found favor with Paramount, the studio that released his last two films Shutter Island (highest-grossing Scorsese pic) and Hugo.

Moving up one spot to finish third is Happy Madison’s Hotel Transylvania. A decade after Eight Crazy Nights left a sour taste in everyone’s mouth, regardless of religious affiliation, Adam Sandler’s second animated comedy has become a surprise hit for Sony Pictures having grossed $119M after four weeks. Sadly, its performance makes Focus Features’ August release ParaNorman seem like a distant memory. But is its performance all that surprising considering that it is a computer-animated feature timed in accordance with Halloween and presented in 3D? Adam Sandler for all intents and purposes shouldn’t be making movies because the law of diminishing returns have caught to him. Plus, outside of his work with Paul Thomas Anderson on Punch Drunk Love and a few other features it seems the actor just doesn’t have one iota about what he wants to achieve as an entertainer.

Last week’s #1 Taken 2 tumbles all the way to fourth, but Fox is laughing all the way to the bank with $280M grossed worldwide in three weeks. Perhaps Liam Neeson needs to add pickpocketing to list of specialized skills. Audience is still there 17 days into its run, as the derivative action thriller is still finishing weekends with ten figures instead of nine.

The only other newcomer in the top ten is Alex Cross starring Tyler Perry. It rounds out the top five with $11.7M. How there can already be discussions of a sequel (called Double Cross) no less is proof how much pull Tyler Perry has. However, this time Perry is looking to branching out as an action lead. Based on the popular novels by James Patterson, this is the second go around for the Alex Cross character. Originally, Morgan Freeman played Cross in two adaptations of the novels, Kiss the Girls and Along Came the Spider. Fans of the novels complained at how poor the adaptations were. The development of Alex Cross has been riddled with problems. Before Rob Cohen (The Fast and the Furious) came on board to direct, the project was to have been directed by David Twohy (Pitch Black) from his own revised draft of a script from Patterson and Kerry Williamson (who co-scripted the original Cross adaptations). Instead, we get Cohen and the original screenwriting pair who did Girls and Spider. Seems like we’ve seen this song and dance before. If people complained at how the books were translated to the silver screen, then why have the same screenwriting team take over the writing duties?

Don’t Cross Alex Cross. Especially when he’s working a Crossword puzzle.

It also brings up something that has perturbed me about mystery series characters getting feature films. When studios get the literary rights to the character they don’t seem to have much forethought about continuing the character past one film. Some of that has to do with a general disregard of the character. I mean Denzel Washington played two great mystery characters in private investigator Easy Rawlings (Devil in a Blue Dress) and Lincoln Rhyme (The Bone Collector). Yet those films were a one and done. Morgan Freeman at least played Alex Cross twice before diminishing returns on Along Came the Spider made Paramount nix any more sequels. Also, we are unlikely to see Ben Affleck continue Dennis Lenhane’s mystery series involving private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro (Gone Baby Gone). And don’t get me started on the mishandling of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux character who has been portrayed twice before by Alec Baldwin (Heaven’s Prisoners) and Tommy Lee Jones (In the Electric Mist). Hopefully, Tom Cruise knows what he’s doing with Jack Reacher even though he looks nothing like the character Lee Child describes in his novels (Reacher is six foot four and weighs 250 lbs.).

While it may have taken two weeks for Sinister to amass a figure as good as Paranormal Activity 4‘s first weekend gross, Summit Entertainment (or Lionsgate to be precise) isn’t complaining too much. The film was produced for $3 million. Factoring in P&A costs and the studio is already seeing a return in its investment. It also helps that Sinister is arguably the best horror release of 2012.

Here Comes the Boom and Pitch Perfect have small drops, but considering Boom opened to less than impressive numbers for a Kevin James comedy the audience wasn’t there to begin with. Universal’s Pitch Perfect has become one of the sleeper films of the fall benefiting from numerous promo screenings and interactive publicity (Twitter, facebook, et al.).

A few hundred thousand only separate Frankenweenie and Looper for spots 9 and 10, so there could be flip-flopping once the actuals come out Monday afternoon. Looper, which has hit theaters overseas has amassed more than $130M overall. Not bad for a director whose first film, Brick (released in 2006), only made $4M.

Dropping out of the top ten are two features I can’t recommend highly enough. They are Seven Psychopaths, writer-director Martin McDonagh’s follow-up to 2008’s In Bruges, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a teenage drama that bridges the gap from the John Hughes ’80s to the Clueless ’90s.

On the arthouse front, Fox Searchlight’s Oscar contender The Sessions opened on four screens to earn $121k. Documentary Brooklyn Castle, which took the audience award at this year’s SXSW Film Festival, made its debut on two screens and collected $22.1k overall. Finally, there’s the French release Holy Motors, a film that has been getting a love it or hate it vibe from what I’ve read. It also played on two screens, but it only earned $19.5k. Be on the lookout for films off the beaten path, you may walk away surprised.

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Source: Box Office Mojo