Prepare for the paradigm shift. No one at Paramount is shedding tears that “Paranormal Activity 4” is set to open lower than the second and third films in the series. One very obvious reason for this is the series itself, which allows for very low production costs. The latest film in the horror franchise, bringing in $30 million this weekend, was the most expensive of the lot, and it still only cost $5 million. But, more importantly, worldwide the picture is looking at another $30 million, and like the third entry, its overseas receipts should handily overpower domestic grosses. Good on Paramount, who have been MIA for FIVE months, their last release being “The Dictator.”
The early model for the “Paranormal Activity” brand name was “Saw,” a similarly cheap horror series that produced one small-budgeted effort annually, BO takes peaking with the third film. Even with bigger grosses, it’s likely 'Paranormal' will follow a similar pattern stateside, and it’s very possible the series will crawl to a sixth installment at least. But the filmmaking team behind “Saw 3D” (the seventh film) entered production knowing that it would be the final film, and while it registered the lowest attendance figures of the series, the 3D helped the picture play to a strong international audience in the early days of heavy worldwide theatrical expansion, netting a franchise-best $90 million in foreign territories. It’s likely that today’s robust international marketplace could have kept that series alive a little longer.
These are benefits the “Paranormal Activity” series is already reaping, and with this film likely to top the international grosses of “Paranormal Activity 3,” you wonder if the series might similarly turn to 3D, and its accompanying inflated prices, given that the format plays stronger overseas. If there is any competition between the “Saw” guys (who saw their prime October release date taken by force) and the 'Paranormal' producers, they could stretch this beyond seven films out of spite.
The biggest surprise of the weekend has to be the supernatural hold displayed by “Argo.” One of the few genuinely non-idiotic crowd-pleasers for adults released in months (that’s now a genre!), it’s not a surprise that word-of-mouth kicked in heavily, giving this film the bounce-back that director Ben Affleck’s “The Town” didn’t have, even as that picture registered its own breakout success. Will it surpass that film's $92 million domestic haul? It's not out of the question.
Meanwhile, “Hotel Transylvania” continues to hold strongly, registering a spectacular fourth week number as the picture nears $120 million. The film clearly has dominated the family audiences, an impressive feat considering the heavily-marketed “Frankenweenie” posed a threat. It’s yet another feather in the cap for Sony Animation, and it raises the profile for director Genndy Tartakovsky, who some consider the potential next Brad Bird.
“Taken 2” is already a massive success, just this past week having eclipsed both the international and worldwide totals of the first film. Inarguably a phenomenon, the franchise likely won’t survive word-of-mouth on a lower-grossing third entry, but given this film's numbers and low costs, it would be stupid for Fox not to move quicker on “Taken 3.” What’s most interesting is that, with this and “The Grey,” Liam Neeson likely vaults himself onto a busy A-List -- once he was striving for awards and only dabbling in genre fare, but now he’s an action-ready leading man with the blockbuster stats to prove it, a rare commodity in today’s Hollywood. The question is, does he start pursuing roles for guys like Denzel Washington, beyond-skilled thesps who also look good holding a gun? Why hasn’t Jerry Bruckheimer broken his back trying to pry Neeson away from Luc Besson?
If you didn’t want to cross “Alex Cross,” you probably saw his new movie. But a lot of people made “Alex Cross” cross, as Tyler Perry continued to prove he wasn’t a massive draw outside of a dress. “Alex Cross” could not cross out the openings of “Along Came A Spider” or “Kiss The Girls,” the last cinematic Cross efforts from more than a dozen years ago. Cross-check the expenditure, and one glance suggests that, given the “A” Cinemascore, the film could conceivably be the start of a new franchise -- Perry’s $5 million salary crosses over a little less than a quarter of the budget, and with “Double Cross” planned as a follow-up, James Patterson’s Alex Cross could once again cross over to another medium. But that would depend on a strong second weekend hold as, across the entire spectrum of Tyler Perry’s films, “Alex Cross” has the weakest opening yet.
In a frame that saw several films keep steady, the legs on “Here Comes The Boom” were fairly surprising. The comedy dropped only slightly more than 20% in week two, after a rather tepid first weekend. Is this an anomaly, or will the film continue to play steadily into November? Hard to say, but given that the smaller budget, retaining its opening weekend audience like this suggests this may be a mild earner for Sony. The picture leapfrogged “Sinister,” which lost its demographic to “Paranormal Activity 4” even as the picture crossed $30 million, a major victory considering the miniscule cost for the micro-budgeted horror effort.
“Pitch Perfect” lost about a quarter of its audience and looks like a safe bet for $60 million, an impressive number for a female-centric youth comedy with no big names. It stayed above a free-falling “Frankenweenie,” which is doubling down on disappointment by registering a flatline overseas as well. “Looper” should hit $60 million next weekend, and it’s likely to more than match that number via international grosses, while just outside the top ten, major word-of-mouth indie “The Perks Of Being A Wallflower” actually increased its grosses in week five, picking up $2.2 million and crossing $9 million overall despite not yet reaching 800 screens. Support your local arthouse theater, boys and girls.
1. Paranormal Activity: Ghost Protocol (Paramount) - $30.2 million
2. Real Movie About A Fake Movie That's Based On A True Story (WB) - $16.6 million ($43.1 mil.)
3. Hotel Gravedale High (Sony) - $13.5 million ($119 mil.)
4. Taken 2: Istanbul Boogaloo (Fox) - $13.4 million ($105.9 mil.)
5. Cross Across Alex Cross Criss Cross (Lionsgate/Summit) - $11.7 million
6. Ethan Hawke Moves In (Summit) - $9 million ($31.9 mil.)
7. Here Comes Da Boom (Sony) - $8.5 million ($23.2 mil.)
8. Mashups: The Movie (Universal) - $7 million ($45.8 mil.)
9. Dead Dog Rising (Disney) - $4.4 million ($26.3 mil.)
10. (500) Days Of Die Hard (Sony) - $4.2 million ($57.8 mil.)