Paramount Pictures will likely be trick-or-treating early this year, as the studio is expected to snag the top two spots at the box office over the weekend with its horror sequel Paranormal Activity 2 and the surprisingly potent Jackass 3D. The original Paranormal Activity is already considered a box-office legend. The 2009 haunted-house flick, which was made for a mere $15,000, built initial buzz by letting moviegoers “demand” local screenings through the film’s website. After four weeks of increasingly sold-out showings, the movie opened wide exactly one year ago and shocked pundits by conquering the weekend with $21.1 million (and simultaneously crushing horror competitor Saw VI). The Paranormal sequel won’t have the same element of surprise this time around, but Paramount has been careful to make sure the film doesn’t follow in the footsteps of, say, Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, the 2000 sequel that cumulatively earned $26.4 million compared to The Blair Witch Project‘s $140.5 million. Here are my weekend predictions:
1. Paranormal Activity 2: $29.5 million
Paramount is aiming for the original movie’s $21.1 million wide-release opening, but this R-rated sequel shouldn’t have any trouble topping that figure. Rather than transforming the franchise into a mega-budget gorefest, the studio was adamant about replicating the first film’s formula: unknown cast, minuscule budget ($3 million this time around), and low-grade cinematography (this time via security cameras instead of a consumer camcorder). Based upon the massive turnout at the free midnight previews held last night (where the film played in 20 cities to reportedly standing room-only audiences), moviegoers seem eager to spend some more time with your typical angry suburban demon.
2. Jackass 3D: $22 million
Johnny Knoxville and his testosterone-loaded cohorts surpassed every expectation last weekend by nailing $50.4 million — the largest opening ever for an October release. While Jackass will likely lose a significant portion of its college-age audience to Paranormal Activity, the 3-D stunt extravaganza has performed well during the workweek (grossing $4.4 million, $4.1 million, and $3.4 million on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, respectively), so the movie should avoid a steep drop of 60 percent. A 55 percent decline is more likely for a weekend take of about $22 million and a cumulative tally of nearly $90 million. As a result, by the end of this weekend, Jackass 3D will have already passed the final grosses of both Jackass: The Movie ($64.3 million) and Jackass Number Two ($72.8 million). I’ll leave it to some sociology professor to determine what the success of these movies says about modern-day moviegoers.
3. Red: $12.5 million
Summit’s action comedy opened to a hearty $21.8 million last weekend, and considering its appeal to a somewhat older movie crowd, it should hold up decently during its second round. Expect a drop of slightly more than 40 percent.
4. Hereafter: $11.5 million
Clint Eastwood’s supernatural drama, starring Matt Damon, debuted last weekend in six theaters and managed to earn a per-site average of $36,720. It expands to 2,181 screens this weekend and will have to deal with mediocre reviews and competition from Red, which has also been skewing older. Hereafter should be able to top Eastwood’s last film, Invictus, which also starred Damon and opened at approximately the same number of theaters last year to the tune of $8.6 million, but it’d be a surprise if the movie registers much higher than that. Warner Bros. is hoping the $50 million film will be a slow burner — Eastwood’s projects often display encouraging stamina at the box office.
5. The Social Network: $7 million
Going into its fourth weekend, David Fincher’s drama (and guaranteed Oscar-player) is still being debated by moviegoers and journalists. (And even Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who said the film got his fashion sense absolutely correct but his motivation for inventing the website wrong). While Disney’s Secretariat could challenge The Social Network for fifth place, we’d put our (virtual) money on the latter.