By John Young
Updated October 24, 2010 at 06:48 PM EDT

The screaming you hear is merely the sound of Paramount Pictures celebrating. According to early estimates, the studio’s Paranormal Activity 2 not only won the weekend with $41.5 million from 3,216 locations, but it also set the record for the largest three-day opening for a horror film, creeping past Friday the 13th‘s $40.6 million tally from last year. Although Paranormal 2 dropped 35 percent from Friday to Saturday, the haunted-house flick got enough people to storm out of their homes and into movie theaters for a whopping $20.1 million on Friday (including $6.3 million from Thursday midnight showings). The movie also easily surpassed its predecessor’s wide-release opening of $21.1 million.

According to Paramount, 61 percent of the audience was less than 25 years old, and the exit pollster CinemaScore had moviegoers giving the film an okay but not super grade of “B.” Those two elements combined, plus the arrival of Saw 3D, suggest that Paranormal 2 will probably suffer a significant drop next weekend. But considering the film’s $3 million budget, we doubt Paramount will be complaining. If anything, Paranormal Activity 3 will be here before you know it.

The weekend’s other new wide release, Clint Eastwood’s supernatural drama Hereafter, expanded from six theaters into 2,181 locations, and materialized with a decent $12 million. Warner Bros. revealed that 80 percent of the film’s audience was at least 30 years old. That kind of age split often indicates that a movie may have some stamina at the box office, since older audiences commonly avoid a film’s opening weekend. However, Hereafter‘s “C+” grade from CinemaScore moviegoers may not bode well for the film’s future.

Last weekend’s winner, Paramount’s Jackass 3D, grabbed second place and declined 57 percent for $21.6 million, bringing its cumulative total to a franchise-best $87.1 million. Third place went to Summit’s action comedy Red, which fell only 31 percent for $15 million. And in fifth place was the best-reviewed film of the year so far, Sony’s The Social Network, which dipped 29 percent for a $7.3 million weekend. The David Fincher drama has grossed $72.9 million, but it’s looking like the Oscar hopeful may ultimately fall a tad short of the $100 million finish line. Then again, you never know with Mark Zuckerberg.

Check back next weekend as Saw 3D, the supposed last entry in the seven-film horror franchise, splatters all sorts of nasty things in your general direction.

1. Paranormal Activity 2 — $41.5 mil

2. Jackass 3D — $21.6 mil

3. Red — $15 mil

4. Hereafter — $12 mil

5. The Social Network — $7.3 mil