A mere month ago, Paranormal Activity landed on maybe a dozen screens nationwide with very few showings on each over that weekend (and none during the week). Now, the little wonder has laid claim to nearly two thousand screens and bested a sixth Saw to become Halloween’s heavy hitter with $22 million over the weekend and $62 million to date — more than enough to cover the film’s $15,000-ish budget and all the costs of astroturfing the thing into a must-see phenom. In the meantime, let’s see how many other studios try to emulate Paramount’s success with P.A., either with viral marketing ploys or by trying to transform some other film-festival frightener into The Next Scariest Movie of All Time, Ever, Period, Exclamation Point, No Backsies.
My guess last week that Saw VI might not suffer so much in competition was proven to be quite wrong, as the sex-quel (?) took in $14.8 million, or half as much as any other Saw sequel has opened with. I, for one, sat out this round, despite recommendations from many of my peers. (“Jigsaw takes on health care!” they said. “It’s relevant now!”) The Weinsteins already retracted their promise/threat of a Rob Zombie Halloween 3 in 3-D; maybe Lionsgate can still go back on their assertion that a Saw VII would be likewise enhanced, and just shuffle the series straight-to-video where they can be promised a comfier profit margin for years to come.
Where the Wild Things Are fell to third place with $14.2 million, Law Abiding Citizen to fourth with $12.7 million, and Couples Retreat to fifth with $11 million. Newcomer Astro Boy debuted in sixth place with $7 million (because, while Wild Things may be psychologically distressing, it still doesn’t kill off a kid in its first ten minutes), The Stepfather slipped to seventh with $6.5 million, and franchise non-starter Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant bowed with $6.3 million in eighth place, proving that not everything involving vampires is box office gold.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs hung on like a champ at number 9 with $5.6 million, Zombieland closed out the top ten with $4.3 million, and just below the fold landed Amelia, the biopic that looked for months like a ready-made Oscar contender (the kit even came with a Hilary Swank, to ensure prestige!), only to be dumped without much press and on a relatively meager 800-ish screens to earn $4 million. Maybe if they’d just caught her last — no, her haunted flight with a handheld camera … yeah, that’s the ticket.
(Oh, and speaking of shameless segues, if you were curious as to the different cuts that Paranormal Activity went through in order to become the hype machine that it is today, feel free to click here where I go over that shit Costner-style. “She’s rocking back, and to the left…”)