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Box office preview: 'Paranormal Activity 3' will scare up big business

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Paranormal 3

The last two Octobers have each featured a remarkably profitable Paranormal Activity film, and tomorrow, a third installment is entering theaters, vying to become to the first $100 million hit since The Help, which was released way back in August. The Three Musketeers and Johnny English Reborn will also do their best to find some business, but most of the Activity at the box office this weekend will be Paranormal.

Check out my box office predictions below: 

1. Paranormal Activity 3 – $41 million

UPDATE: ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ earned $8 million from midnight shows. Paramount’s bump-in-the-night, found footage franchise has done two incredibly impressive things. First off, it killed the Saw franchise. Let’s all be glad for that. Second, and more importantly, it earned Paramount an absolutely bonkers amount of money. The first Paranormal Activity earned $107.9 million against a $15,000 budget in 2009, while Paranormal Activity 2 (which was not as well received) grossed $84.8 million against a still-tiny $3 million budget in 2010.

Paranormal Activity 3 cost a bit more at $5 million, but with very strong reviews, an open marketplace that’s just asking for a big hit, and no Saw competition on the horizon, the sequel should play strong through the Halloween season. The picture is tracking very well with young audiences in their teens and 20s, which will drive Paranormal‘s box office this weekend. Last year, Paranormal Activity 2 opened with $40.7 million on this very weekend, and considering the franchise is still giving people the same old shtick (which, in this prognosticator’s opinion, is still very scary), 3 might open to similar numbers. I’ll say $41 million out of 3,321 theaters over the Friday-to-Sunday frame.

2. The Three Musketeers – $13 million

As a fan of the steampunk genre, I’d like to be enthusiastic about The Three Musketeers‘ box office prospects, but the closer we’ve gotten to this Alexandre Dumas-adaptation’s release, the more it has seemed like a misfire. The 3-D tale stars Christoph Waltz, Orlando Bloom, and Milla Jovovich (who, let’s be honest, is box office poison outside of the Resident Evil franchise). All the swashbuckling action looks like it cost a lot of money, but Summit is keeping mum on how much was spent on Musketeers, which they say was financed and produced by Constantin Film.

Title recognition will help the flick a bit on opening weekend, and a core audience of adventure-hungry males should turn out, but poor reviews may keep older audiences out of theaters. All in all, on the spectrum of costumey sword-fight movies, The Three Musketeers feels less like a Sherlock Holmes-level hit ($209 million), and more like The Brothers Grimm ($37.9 million). Out in 3,017 theaters, it might fight its way to a $13 million opening.

3. Real Steel – $10.5 million

Another small-ish drop is in store for the well-liked boxing robot movie, which has taken on a family film trajectory. After a 40 percent fall last weekend to $16.3 million, Dreamworks’ Hugh Jackman picture could drop by a slimmer 35 percent to $10.5 million, which would give the film about $65 million total, but as it should always be noted, Real Steel cost $110 million.

4. Footloose – $8 million

The dance remake didn’t quite break out last weekend, kicking off its Sunday shoes run with $15.6 million, but it’s been playing fairly well throughout the week. Clearly, this movie is not a box office powerhouse, but with a $24 million pricetag, that’s not too big of a problem for Paramount. It may fall by about 50 percent to $8 million.

5. Johnny English Reborn – $6 million

Though Rowan Atkinson’s bumbling spy spoofs are a big hit overseas, they are pretty much a non-factor Stateside. Back in 2003, Johnny English opened to $9.1 million on its way to a $28.1 million domestical total. Internationally, it earned $132.5 million, though. Considering that film hasn’t become any sort of cult classic in the eight years that have passed since then, Johnny English Reborn will likely open even lower than that this weekend. Not that it matters — the picture, which was made for $45 million, has already amassed $85.1 million overseas in the last five weeks. Universal has Reborn playing in 1,551 theaters, and it may take in $6.5 million.

Other notable releases include womens basketball drama The Mighty Macs, which is entering 975 theaters and might earn $1 million. Investment bank thriller Margin Call will also start its run at 50 locations. Given all the attention Occupy Wall Street is getting, I can’t wait to see how that performs.

Follow Grady on Twitter: @EWGradySmith