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Box Office: 'Paranormal Activity 3' scares off competition [Updated]

October 23, 2011 |  9:50 am

Paranormal Activity 3 was the No 1 film at the box office
"Paranormal Activity 3" scared off all rivals at the box office this weekend, topping the series best and outpacing all comers with an eye-popping studio-estimated take of $54 million.

The third film in Paramount Pictures' horror franchise bested expectations by a wide margin — even optimists had projected the movie would top out at about $45 million. 

The other two new films in wide release this weekend did not have strong debuts. An expensive 3-D version of "The Three Musketeers" flopped, grossing a disappointing $8.8 million. And "Johnny English Reborn," a comedy starring British comedian Rowan Atkinson, did not resonate with American audiences. While the film is a hit overseas, it only collected a weak $3.8 million in the U.S. this weekend. 

The results for "Paranormal Activity 3" were boosted in part by weak competition. But that hardly accounted for the full-on success of the third installment in the low-budget horror franchise. The numbers for the Paramount Pictures release represented a significant increase over the second film's opening weekend -- "Paranormal Activity 2" drew $40.7 million in its debut -- and stood as the largest weekend total for a film since the blockbuster days of the summer.

"Horror fans came out in very large numbers this weekend, and that's a testament to the filmmakers and the enduring power of this franchise," Rob Moore, Paramount's vice chairman said of the movie directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. 

In keeping with general patterns for horror pictures, "Paranormal Activity 3" drew a high proportion of women, with female film-goers accounting for 54% of the audience.

The totals may reassure those who have been concerned about box office numbers that have been down roughly 4% this year compared from last year. The performance of "Paranormal" also signaled that the franchise can continue far beyond 2011. The current film is on track to top the cumulative total of $107 million grossed by the first "Paranormal" movie.

As the weekend kicked off, it seemed there was already a black cloud hanging over "The Three Musketeers." Milla Jovovich — who stars in the film directed by her husband, Paul W.S. Anderson — took to her Twitter account on Friday to bash distributor Summit Entertainment. Jovovich said the studio did not market the movie properly and was "resting on their laurels from 'twilight' n making no effort" — a reference to the teen vampire franchise that is far and away Summit's most lucrative property.

On Sunday, the studio said it had no comment on Jovovich's remarks.

Indeed, Summit does not have much money invested in "Musketeers," as the movie was financed by Germany's Constantin Film for about $90 million. Summit, which is distributing the movie domestically, paid only for prints and advertising. Constantin is releasing the movie internationally, where the movie has so far debuted in 40 countries and grossed about $50 million as of last weekend.

The limited number of people who did see the film in the U.S. were on the older side, with 64% of the crowd over age 25. Audiences gave the critically panned film an average grade of B, according to market research firm CinemaScore. About 55% of the film's ticket sales came from 3-D receipts. 

Meanwhile, with "Johnny English Reborn," Atkinson again failed to connect with American audiences. The actor, best known for playing Mr. Bean, has never been a favorite stateside. 2003's "Johnny English," in which Atkinson originated his role as an incompetent secret agent, opened to a better $9.1 million but ended up grossing only $28 million in the U.S. Overseas, the picture collected a healthy $132.5 million in sales.

It seems "Johnny English Reborn" will follow a similar trajectory. Although the film will probably make less in America than the original did, it is on pace to far out-gross its predecessor abroad. This weekend, the movie crossed the $100-million mark at the international box office, collecting $13.5 million from 44 countries. The film's foreign total now stands at $104.5 million, and the movie has yet to open in 15 markets overseas. 

This weekend, the movie played in about 1,500 fewer U.S. theaters than any of the weekend's other wide-release debuts. Universal Pictures and Relativity Media spent about $45 million to produce the picture, which received an average grade of B from moviegoers. About 35% of those who saw the PG-rated film were parents with their children.

[Updated at 1:05 p.m., Oct. 23: After three weeks in theaters, "Real Steel" is maintaining strength at the box office. The sci-fi action flick took second place at the domestic box office this weekend, where the film has now grossed almost $70 million. Overseas, the film is approaching the $100-million milestone, having collected $86.1 million from 32 countries.

Meanwhile, the remake of the classic '80s flick "Footloose" also had a solid hold. In its second week of release, the movie saw its ticket sales fall only 30%, a sign that the A grade that moviegoers assigned the film upon its debut may be paying off.

Here are the top 10 current movies at the domestic box office, with international grosses when available, according to studio estimates and

1. "Paranormal Activity 3" (Paramount): Opened to $54 million. Opened overseas in 42 foreign markets, grossing $26 million.

2. "Real Steel" (Disney/DreamWorks): $11.3 million on its third weekend, down 31%. $18.5 million overseas in 32 foreign markets. Domestic total: $67.2 million. International total: $86.1 million.

3. "Footloose" (Paramount): $10.9 million on its second weekend, down 30%. $1.8 million overseas in 10 foreign markets. Domestic total: $30.9 million. International total: $6 million.

4. "The Three Musketeers" (Summit/Constantin): Opened to $8.8 million. $13.1 million overseas in 56 foreign markets. International total: $64.4 million.

5. "The Ides of March" (Sony/Cross Creek): $4.9 million on its third weekend, down 31%. Domestic total: $29.2 million.

6. "Dolphin Tale" (Warner Bros./Alcon): $4.2 million on its fifth weekend, down 33%. Domestic total: $64.4 million.

7. "Moneyball" (Sony): $4.1 million on its fifth weekend, down 26%. $900,000 overseas in three foreign markets. Domestic total: $63.7 million. International total: $1.6 million.

8. "Johnny English Reborn" (Universal/Relativity): Opened to $3.8 million. $13.5 million overseas in 44 foreign markets. International total: $104.5 million.

9. "The Thing" (Universal): $3.1 million on its second weekend, down 63%. Domestic total: $14.1 million. $1.2 million overseas in six foreign markets. International total: $3.1 million.

10. "50/50" (Summit/Mandate): $2.8 million on its fourth weekend, down 34%. Domestic total: $28.8 million.]


Rowan Atkinson finds U.S. a tough bean to crack

Movie Projector: 'Paranormal Activity 3' to frighten rivals

'Paranormal 3' brings in strong $8 million in midnight screenings

-- Steven Zeitchik and Amy Kaufman

Photo: A scene from "Paranormal Activity 3." Credit: Paramount Pictures