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'Paranormal Activity' outdoes estimate by 12%

October 12, 2009 |  3:33 pm

Paranormal2
Sunday was a scarier day at the box office than we thought. 

"Paranormal Activity" was already set to break records this weekend based on Paramount's ticket sales estimate yesterday morning. But the low-budget horror film blew past that estimate with much stronger than expected returns on Sunday: $2.4 million instead of the expected $1.6 million. That's a difference of about 50%.

The movie ended up collecting $7.9 million over the weekend, substantially more than the $7.066 million that Paramount predicted on Monday. While studio estimates are sometimes off by a few percentage points, it's rare that they under- or overestimate by more than 10%, as happened with "Paranormal Activity."

Studios base Sunday morning estimates on similar films that collected a similar amount of money on Friday and Saturday. When movies significantly outperform their estimates, it's usually a sign that word of mouth is tremendously strong, driving better-than-expected Sunday attendance.

Average ticket sales per theater for "Paranormal Activity" were $49,379, the highest ever for a movie playing at more than 100 locations.

The movie, which cost $15,000 to produce and on which Paramount has spent around $2 million for marketing so far, has already grossed a total of $9.1 million domestically. 

Actual ticket sales for the weekend's No. 1 movie, "Couples Retreat," came in at $34.3 million. That's $1 million, or 3%, less than Universal's Sunday estimate.

--Ben Fritz

Photo: Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat in "Paranormal Activity." Credit: Paramount Pictures

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