Movie Projector: 'Paranormal Activity 3' to frighten rivals
The third "Paranormal Activity" movie will spook its competitors at the box office this weekend. But it remains to be seen whether it can scare up more dollars than the franchise's second installment.
"Paranormal Activity 3" is expected to collect $40 million to $45 million domestically, according to those who have seen pre-release audience surveys. Paramount Pictures, the studio releasing the movie, is predicting a softer debut of around $35 million. The second "Paranormal" film opened to $40.7 million on the same weekend last year.
In any event, the new movie is expected to gross far more than either of the two other films opening wide this weekend. "The Three Musketeers," a 3-D take on the classic novel by Alexandre Dumas, is projected to debut with a weak $13 million. "Johnny English Reborn," a sequel to a 2003 comedy starring British comedian Rowan Atkinson, will probably bring in about $7 million -- although it's already a success overseas.
But perhaps the more interesting question is whether "Paranormal Activity 3" can top the franchise's 2010 success. Despite its strong opening, "Paranormal Activity 2" wound up grossing only $84.8 million, with many fans rushing out to see it the first weekend.
The third movie cost $5 million to produce, about $2 million more than the previous one.
The low-budget horror series has been one of the more unlikely Hollywood success stories in recent years. The first movie -- about a young couple named Katie and Micah who occupy a haunted house -- generated buzz on the festival circuit and became a sleeper hit when Paramount acquired and released it in 2009. Launched with a grassroots marketing campaign, the film, which cost only $15,000 to produce, grossed $108 million domestically and an additional $85.4 million overseas.
Set in the 1980s, “Paranormal Activity 3” follows Katie’s life as a child. To capitalize on interest, Paramount has held fan preview screenings around the world this week, including a packed event at the Hollywood ArcLight on Tuesday night. The movie is also opening overseas this weekend in most major markets, including Russia, France and South Korea.
Although the franchise has maintained the same producing team, each of the three movies has been directed by a different filmmaker. The latest one comes from Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, the documentarians behind the 2010 Sundance sensation “Catfish.”
"Johnny English Reborn" began its international rollout five weeks ago. The film, released in 43 foreign markets so far, is expected to cross the $100-million mark abroad this weekend. And the comedy has yet to open in 20 additional countries, including Brazil and Japan.
Universal Pictures and Relativity Media spent about $45 million to produce the movie, which is being released in about 1,500 fewer U.S. theaters than the weekend's other wide-release debuts. The movie has Atkinson reprising his role as the inept secret agent whom audiences first met in 2003's "Johnny English." Stateside, that movie opened to $9.1 million but brought in only $28 million -- a paltry figure compared to the $132.5 million it raked in abroad.
A number of films starring Atkinson -- known to most for his portrayal of the goofy character Mr. Bean -- have not resonated with American audiences. In 1997, his film "Bean" made only $45.3 million of its overall $251.2-million tally in the U.S.; 2007's "Mr. Bean's Holiday" grossed $33.3 million in the U.S. of its $229.7 million total globally.
Throughout history, there have been numerous incarnations of "The Three Musketeers" in the entertainment world. One somewhat recent big-screen version -- released in 1993 and starring Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland and Oliver Platt -- grossed only $53.9 million worldwide.
The updated version of the classic about a trio of spirited swashbucklers is expected to appeal mostly to older men. Of all the weekend's debuts, "The Three Musketeers" has received the most negative critical reviews: As of Thursday, the picture had a 26% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The big-budget movie was financed by Germany's Constantin Film and is being distributed domestically by Summit Entertainment. The studio did not invest in the production, but it did pay for the prints and advertising. Constantin is also releasing the movie internationally, where it has made about $50 million to date in 40 countries.
In limited release, Freestyle Releasing will open the inspirational sports drama "The Mighty Macs" in 965 theaters nationwide, where it may bring in around $4 million. Roadside Attractions is debuting the financial crisis drama "Margin Call" in 56 theaters, and Fox Searchlight's critical darling "Martha Marcy May Marlene" -- a dark film starring Elizabeth Olsen, sister of the Olsen twins -- will play in two theaters in Los Angeles and two in New York.
-- Amy Kaufman and Steven Zeitchik
Photo: A scene from "Paranormal Activity 3." Credit: Paramount Pictures