Box office: 'Paranormal Activity 2' brings in $41.5 million; 'Hereafter' trails with $12-million start [Updated]
The sequel to last year's ultra-low budget viral blockbuster opened to a surprisingly strong $41.5 million at theaters in the U.S. and Canada this weekend, demonstrating that fans are willing to come to a studio-produced quickie follow-up to an indie hit if it's done well.
"Paranormal Activity 2" blew away pre-release estimates and enjoyed the highest opening ever for a horror film, not accounting for ticket price inflation. Far back in its rear-view mirror was the Clint Eastwood-directed life-after-death drama "Hereafter," starring Matt Damon, which debuted nationwide to a soft $12 million.
When Paramount Pictures announced plans to make a sequel to last year's surprise blockbuster "Paranormal Activity," which was produced for just $15,000 and slowly grew based on word-of-mouth and online marketing to gross $108 million domestically, many fans and observers were skeptical. They feared a repeat of "Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2," the poorly received and commercially disappointing 2000 sequel to another independently produced horror hit.
But "Paranormal Activity 2" apparently delivered the scares that fans wanted. As is typical for a success in that genre, it produced big ticket sales out of the gate, collecting a very strong $6.3 million from midnight shows Thursday night and $20.1 million by Friday night, then falling a sizable 35% Saturday to $13 million. Most fans were 25 and younger, and a disproportionately large number were Latino, also typical for horror movies.
Audiences gave the movie a solid but not great average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
Unlike the original, "Paranormal 2" is likely to have a short run in theaters with so many fans coming out this weekend and "Saw 3D" debuting Friday. Nonetheless, it will come close to, and possibly exceed, the $107-million total of its predecessor. That will make the movie hugely profitable for Paramount, which spent only about $3 million on production and engaged in a low-key marketing campaign focused on the Web and cable TV.
Unlike the original, Paramount also has foreign distribution rights to the sequel, significantly increasing the commercial potential. "Paranormal Activity 2" debuted in 21 foreign countries this weekend to mostly strong numbers, generating a total of $22.1 million. It was No. 1 in Great Britain, Australia, and Mexico, grossing $6.3 million, $2.7 million, and $1.9 million, respectively.
"Hereafter" was aimed at a much older audience of adult fans of Eastwood's long, award-winning resume. The Warner Bros. release opened a bit better than 2008's "Changeling," which also launched in October and started off with $9.4 million. But because "Hereafter" has extensive digital effects and cost $50 million, high for an Eastwood-directed film, it's not in a good position to end up a financial success.
Warner is hoping "Hereafter" will have a long life in theaters, but word-of-mouth likely won't be strong, as the CinemaScore was a C+.
Last weekend's surprisingly strong No. 1 movie, "Jackass 3D," took a sizable but not huge tumble of 57% to $21.5 million. Its total domestic box office after 10 days is $87.1 million.
The adult action film "Red," starring Bruce Willis and Helen Mirren, dropped only 31% from its so-so start, taking in $15 million on its second weekend and bringing its total to $43.5 million.
In limited release, Fox Searchlight expanded the Hillary Swank drama "Conviction" from 11 to 55 theaters and continued to find little success, selling only $300,000 worth of tickets and bringing its total after two weeks to $441,123. However, with an A- CinemaScore, distributor Fox Searchlight is still optimistic that word-of-mouth will be good among adults as the big-screen version of an inspiring true story goes into more than 500 theaters nationwide Friday.
[Updated at 11:08 a.m.: Several movies had less than impressive debuts in foreign markets this weekend.
Romantic comedy "Life As We Know It" opened to only $2 million in Germany and $1.9 million in Australia.
Animated film "Legend of the Guardians" opened to a weak $1.2 million in Great Britain and $1.1 million in Spain.
Teen comedy "Easy A" launched to a very soft $400,000 in Great Britain.
The Ben Affleck crime drama "The Town" debuted to only $740,000 in Russia.
Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office, along with foreign grosses when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:
2. "Jackass 3D" (Paramount): $21.5 million on its second weekend, down 57%. Domestic total: $87.1 million.
3. "Red" (Summit): $15 million its second weekend, down 31%. Domestic total: $43.5 million.
4. "Hereafter" (Warner Bros.): $12 million on its first weekend playing nation-wide (second in theaters). Domestic total: $12.3 million.
5. "The Social Network" (Sony/Relativity): $7.3 million on its fourth weekend, down 29%. Domestic total: $72.9 million. $10 million overseas in 25 foreign markets. International total: $32.2 million.
6. "Secretariat" (Disney): $6.9 million on its third weekend, down 26%. Domestic total: $37.4 million.
7. "Life As We Know It" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): $6.2 million on its third weekend, down 31%. Domestic total: $37.6 million. $8.3 million overseas in 22 foreign markets. International total: $17.8 million.
8. "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): $3.2 million on its fifth weekend, down 25%. Domestic total: $50.2 million. $8.1 million overseas in 51 foreign markets. International total: $53 million.
9. "The Town" (Warner Bros./Legendary): $2.7 million on its sixth weekend in theaters, down 32%. Domestic total: $84.7 million. $5.4 million overseas in 31 foreign markets. International total: $34.1 million.
10. "Easy A" (Sony Screen Gems): $1.8 million on its sixth weekend, down 34%. Domestic total: $54.8 million. $500,000 overseas in four foreign markets. International total: $5.6 million.
-- Ben Fritz
Top photo: A scene from "Paranormal Activity 2." Credit: Paramount Pictures. Bottom photo: Matt Damon and Jay Mohr in "Hereafter." Credit: Ken Regan / Warner Bros.