‘Paranormal Activity 3' scares off competition

“Paranormal Activity 3" vanquished the box-office ghosts this weekend, taking in a whopping $54 million upon its premiere in the U.S., according to studio estimates.

The other two new films in wide release this weekend, however, flopped. An expensive 3-D version of “The Three Musketeers” grossed a disappointing $8.8 million. And “Johnny English Reborn,” a comedy starring British comedian Rowan Atkinson, did not resonate with American audiences. While the film is a hit overseas, it collected a weak $3.8 million in the U.S. this weekend.

Still, the results for Paramount Pictures’ third “Paranormal” made for the first truly stellar box-office weekend of the fall, which has been characterized by middling performances from high-profile releases. Even past weekend winners such as “Contagion,” “Real Steel” and “The Lion King 3-D” had failed to open much beyond $30 million.

“Paranormal’s” opening, on the other hand, was the highest-ever October debut, and helped power the top 12 movies to their highest total, $110.3 million, since the middle of August. Analysts had anticipated $40 million to $45 million for the third installment in the supernatural franchise.


The numbers for the Paramount release represented a significant increase over other horror films, which have struggled of late, and demolished the opening of “Paranormal Activity 2,” which drew $40.7 million in its premiere on the same weekend last year.

“Horror fans came out in very large numbers this weekend, and that’s a testament to the filmmakers and the enduring power of this franchise,” said Rob Moore, Paramount Pictures vice chairman, alluding to the movie directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.

While Moore declined to elaborate on future plans for the franchise, the numbers all but assured there will be a fourth “Paranormal” film, and solidified “Paranormal’s” status as the Halloween heir to the “Saw” series, which reliably yielded a hit every October for the past seven years.

In keeping with the general pattern for horror pictures, “Paranormal” drew a higher proportion of women, who came out to see “Paranormal Activity 3" at a ratio of 54% to 46% compared with men. About 53% of the total audience was under age 25.

The movie grossed an additional $26 million upon its debut in international territories, which included France, Australia and Russia, Paramount said.

Still, it remains to be seen how the movie will perform in the coming weeks. While filmgoers came out in sizable numbers to see the horror prequel, they didn’t necessarily like what they saw: The film notched an average grade of C+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The first “Paranormal Activity” took in $107 million in the U.S., while the second film garnered about $85 million.

Meanwhile, fortunately for Summit Entertainment, the studio does not have much money invested in “Musketeers,” as the movie was financed by Germany’s Constantin Film for about $90 million. Summit, which is distributing the movie domestically, paid only for prints and advertising.

On Friday, actress Milla Jovovich — who stars in the film directed by her husband, Paul W.S. Anderson — took to her Twitter account to criticize Summit’s marketing of the film. Jovovich said the studio was “resting on their laurels from ‘twilight’ n making no effort” — a reference to the teen vampire franchise that is far and away Summit’s most lucrative property.


On Sunday, the studio said it had no comment on Jovovich’s remarks or the film’s marketing campaign.

The limited number of people who did see the film in the U.S. were on the older side, with 64% of the crowd over age 25. Audiences gave the critically panned film an average grade of B. About 55% of the film’s ticket sales came from 3-D receipts.

The film will at least make up some financial ground overseas. Abroad, where “Musketeers” is being released by Constantin, the movie has so far debuted in 56 countries and grossed about $65 million.

With “Johnny English Reborn,” Atkinson again failed to connect with American audiences. The actor, best known for playing Mr. Bean, has never been a favorite stateside. 2003’s “Johnny English,” in which Atkinson originated his role as an incompetent secret agent, opened to a better $9.1 million but ended up grossing only $28 million in the U.S. Overseas, the picture collected a healthy $132.5 million in sales.


It seems “Johnny English Reborn” will follow a similar trajectory. Although the film will probably make less in America than the original did, it is on pace to easily out-gross its predecessor abroad. This weekend, the movie crossed the $100-million mark at the international box office, collecting $13.5 million from 44 countries. The film’s foreign total now stands at $104.5 million, and the movie has yet to open in 15 markets overseas.

“I guess it’s just that British humor,” Nikki Rocco, president of domestic distribution for Universal Pictures, surmised about the movie’s U.S. failure. “Unfortunately, the American grosses are exactly what we predicted they would be, but when you look at the level of business the film is doing internationally, it doesn’t matter.”

This weekend, the movie played in about 1,500 fewer U.S. theaters than any of the weekend’s other wide-release debuts. Universal Pictures and Relativity Media spent about $45 million to produce the picture, which received an average grade of B from moviegoers.