Weekend Wrap-Up

Paranormal Activity 3 is the scariest of them all

By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower

October 23, 2011

Aw, look at the sweet little demon possessed things.

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Three new major studio releases entered the marketplace this weekend, and two of them will prove to be footnotes compared to the third. Paranormal Activity 3 decimated all comers, with a factor of five more in revenue than The Three Musketeers and Johnny English Reborn combined. Also, fledgling Quaker Media had some success with a G-rated sports biopic.

After weeks of pathetic box office debuts, Paramount Pictures finally gives moviegoers the October scare they have so desperately coveted. The second follow-up to a movie that cost $15,000 to create (probably less than you spent on your student loans) has shattered a pair of meaningful box office records. Paranormal Activity 3 launched into 3,321 venues, earning a staggering $54 million, good for an impressive per exhibition average of $16,266.

Purchasing the rights to Paranormal Activity has proven to be the best studio buy since Twilight. The original film, which built its buzz through a clever campaign of exclusivity and consumer demand, had a highest single weekend performance of $21.1 million, a number that came during its fifth frame. Meanwhile, the really impressive number came from its per location average, which was a historic $49,379 as it played in only $160 exhibitions. It’s true that a higher average is easier in fewer locations; however, when we look at that number two years later, we still boggle. Paranormal Activity went on to earn $108 million domestically and almost $200 million worldwide, an amazing return on investment for an upfront expense that is less that people pay for a new car.


Paranormal Activity 2 is equally noteworthy in the way the studio nurtured it. Rather than hire big name actors and attempt to glitz up the story with a bunch of special effects, a prequel featured the same actors from the first film and then added a few other people who were no more famous. The end result was that Paramount reinforced the concept of the first film’s story with the character and plot development of the prequel, showing that they clearly learned a lesson from the mistakes of The Blair Witch Project 2: Book of Shadows. Because of this dedication to the integrity of the franchise, the second film in the series was able to debut with $40.7 million, with a per location average of $12,649 in its 3,216 venues. It did behave like a sequel overall, as it did have the much larger opening weekend, but finished with less money overall. Still, its domestic take of $84.8 million is more than respectable for a horror prequel that cost $3 million. Even better, its worldwide total was $177.5 million, within about $20 million of its predecessor.

For Paranormal Activity 3, Paramount went with a prequel to the prequel, taking us back to the 1980s, when the two sisters from the first two films were children. Because the studio has nurtured the franchise so carefully and built trust with consumers, they have been rewarded with an even bigger opening than the second film – which was pretty awesome in the first place. Not only is Paranormal Activity 3 the largest box office debut in ten weeks (since Rise of the Planet of the Apes), but it’s also the new record holder for October openings, besting Jackass 3D’s $50.4 million from last year. Additionally, it is the biggest horror opening ever, besting the previous record holder – Paranormal Activity 2. What this means is that the franchise now has the two biggest horror openings in history.

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