'Paranormal Activity 4'
Paramount 'Paranormal Activity 4'

Strong holdovers like "Argo," more than the new "Paranormal Activity" installment, boosted this weekend's box office over last year. Many had only small fall offs from last week. Business was also helped by a diverse slate of films appealing to a wide range of audiences -- important for raising ticket sales, but not always achieved by studios. The top 10 overall were about equal to last weekend.

It's tough to commit to opening new films during this this period. Not only does Halloween (and related non-movie activities) pose significant competition, but TV ad space is at a premium with the tens of millions bought for political campaigns (often at premium prices, making normal discounts less available). The excuses for a weak late October are there to be had. But instead, theaters continue to do well.

1. Paranormal Activity 4 (Paramount) NEW - Cinemascore: C; Metacritic score:41

$30,200,000 in 3,412 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $8,867; Cumulative: $30,200,000

Falling more than 40 percent from last year's $52 million gross for "PA3," for half the total of the top ten, number 4 still managed to easily win the weekend.

With the previous three films in this found-footage horror series grossing over $560-million worldwide on a total combined production cost under $15 million, another turn at bat was certain. And the opening weekend figures -- even if more opening-day front-loaded than most horror films -- should ensure more to come.

Co-directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman repeat after helming the previous entry, a job they scored after their left-field indie docuthriller "Catfish."

What comes next: Perhaps a small reboot might be in order, but ultimately a small decrease in the profit multiple is no reason to make major changes. This is one series that has yet to go 3-D, but its story lines don't easily lend themselves to that format. However, it's worth noting that "PA 4" is less faithful to rigorous found-footage methods.

2. Argo (Warner Brothers) Week 2 - Last Weekend: #2

$16,625,000 (15%) in 3,247 theaters (+15); PSA: $5,120; Cumulative: $43,191,000

Holding extremely well in its second weekend, and keeping its #2 position, Ben Affleck's Iran escape drama is performing exactly like a well-reviewed wide audience potential awards contender. Not only is its $43-million gross through 10 days impressive, but the small drop indicates this should maintain strength for the forseeable future, with little competition for its adult entertainment/drama until Robert Zemeckis' likely smash "Flight" opens two weeks from now.

Affleck's "The Town" held well its second weekend (down -34%) after opening bigger than "Argo" for a total at that point of $48.7 million, now just slightly ahead. Based on these numbers, "Argo" --with continuing consistent grosses and playoff for several more weeks-- should easily pass the earlier film's $92 million total.

What comes next: Warner Bros. set the release date for maximizing the film's box office potential. Remember, another sole October release touted as a potential top Best Picture contender and a major popular success was "The Departed" six years ago--the studio's last Best Picture winner.

3. Hotel Transylvania (Sony) Week 4 - Last Weekend: #4

$13,500,000 (-22%) in 3,014 theaters (-361); PSA: $4,479; Cumulative: $119,000,000

Outstanding hold, and an actual climb in position for the fourth week.

What comes next: And the pre-Halloween weekend is yet to come, so this has a real shot at $150 million and more.

4. Taken 2 (20th Century-Fox)  Week 3 - Last Weekend: #1

$13,400,000 (-37%) in 3,489 theaters (-217); PSA: $3,841; Cumulative: $105,971,000

A modest falloff in the third weekend follows two strong weeks with grosses ahead of the first "Taken," whose third weekend was $19 million, less that 8% down from its second. And that steadiness helped push it up to a domestic gross of $145 million, a bit more than "Taken 2" will reach.

What comes next: This still has performed every bit as well as hoped, with its international take already ahead for all of "Taken."

5. Alex Cross (Lionsgate) NEW - Cinemascore: A; Metacritic score: 33

$11,750,000 in 2,539 theaters; PSA: $4,628; Cumulative: $11,750,000

Tyler Perry's third starring film of the year is his first lead role ever for another director, and quite a change of pace from his usual comedy roles, as well as against type as a character, as he takes over from Morgan Freeman as a police psychologist. Also based on James Patterson novels were "Kiss the Girl" and "Along Came a Spider," which both delivered grosses that would be the equivalent of close to $100 milliion today.

Clearly a Lionsgate/Summit miscalculation as to how audiences want to see Perry--in his own home-grown product, often in drag--this film has opened as low as any Perry-starring film, more problematic with its reported production cost of $23 million being greater than normal for his own productions. These have been consistently profitable films for Lionsgate (low end of theatrical gross $30 million, many much higher). This is going to struggle to reach that level.