'Evil Dead' Remake
'Evil Dead' Remake

Sony's remake of "Evil Dead" performed better than expected, but fell just below the best horror film opening of the year. "Evil Dead" took #1 for the weekend, a position Paramount hoped to retain for its expensive "G.I. Joe: Retaliation." That film is a global hit, but is fighting for the #2 spot with Dreamworks Animation's "The Croods." The 3-D rerelease of "Jurassic Park"  did adequate business, although its future is also in international markets.

With nothing else new this week, most other holdovers surpassed expectations, with both "Olympus Has Fallen," "Oz: The Great and Powerful" and "The Call" joining "The Croods" in dropping 30% or less, very strong holds. This helped lead to an overall top 10 gross of about $126 million, up from last year's $115, though down from $137 last week (which benefited from a much stronger #1 film gross).

1. Evil Dead (Sony) NEW - Cinemascore: C-; Criticwire Grade: B; Metacritic score: 58

$26,000,000 in 3,025 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $8,595; Cumulative: $26,000,000

Horror films, particularly remakes and sequels of popular franchises, have been a staple of studio production since the "Friday the 13th" series more than three decades ago. It's the most reliable way to reach #1 for at least an opening week without spending a fortune. This remake of the film that began Sam Raimi's career was a prime remake opportunity, and succeeded in proving the industry rule that every few weeks there is an audience for a new horror release.

Produced for only $17 million, this remake outgrossed that initial investment by a wide margin, even if its first day (supplemented by Thursday night shows) was its best and the Cinemascore (anything less than B+ suggests a mixed to negative reaction) was not good. The $26 million gross makes it the second highest horror-genre #1 opening in 2013 so far among the five that have opened, second only to "Mama"'s $28 million debut.

Overseen by Raimi's Ghost House Pictures, with Sony's production unit Tri-Star as well as FilmDistrict as partners, the film, not unusually, was directed by a foreigner (Uruguayan native Fede Alvarez), but very unusually, as his first feature. Raimi and longtime partner Robert Tapert were joined by original "Dead" star Bruce Campbell as producers, and the script had among its writers Raimi and Diablo Cody.

What comes next: Following normal patterns, this likely takes a quick drop, but add in international grosses and the flick should easily top $100 million, plus later revenues. (Scattered territories earned $4.5 million this weekend, performing at levels at or above recent horror releases).

2. (tie) G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Paramount) Week 2 - Last Weekend: #1

$21,100,000 (-48%) in 3,734 theaters (+15); PSA: $5,651; Cumulative: $86,663,000

Falling just a little under 50% is not a positive sign for this expensive sequel, though it managed an initial tie for second place (to be broken when final numbers come in tomorrow). It is however a better showing than the first film in the series, which dropped almost 60% its second weekend ($22 million, down from a higher opening).

The good news is its strong international performance, which at $40 million this weekend nearly doubled the domestic take, leaving a combined worldwide total as of now at $232 million. With the first film combined only grossing $302 million, this is well on its way to topping that number by some distance.

What comes next: Paramount is considering a third go-round.

2. (tie). The Croods (20th Century-Fox) Week 3 - Last Weekend: #2

$21,100,000 (-21%) in 3,879 theaters (-186); PSA: $5,440; Cumulative: $125,800,000

An excellent hold for this Dreamworks Animation production, more so considering last weekend was a holiday with most schools off on Friday, making this a return to form for the company with its first release through Twentieth Century Fox. Worldwide totals are already near the level that "Rise of the Guardians" achieved ($300 million was not enough to be profitable), with this looking to come close to $200 million domestically and perhaps $500 million overall.

What comes next: This hold suggests strong word of mouth and likely top 10 placement for several more weeks.