Paranormal Activity 3 rules US box office

NEW YORK: "Paranormal Activity 3" vanquished the box-office ghosts this weekend, taking in a whopping $54 million upon its premiere in the US, according to studio estimates.

The other two new films in wide release this weekend, however, flopped. An expensive 3-D version of "The Three Musketeers" grossed a disappointing $8.8 million. And "Johnny English Reborn," a comedy starring British comedian Rowan Atkinson, did not resonate with American audiences. While the film is a hit overseas, it collected a weak $3.8 million in the US this weekend.

Still, the results for Paramount Pictures' third "Paranormal" made for the first truly stellar box-office weekend of the fall, which has been characterized by middling performances from high-profile releases. Even past weekend winners such as "Contagion," "Real Steel" and "The Lion King 3-D" had failed to open much beyond $30 million.

"Paranormal's" opening, on the other hand, was the highest-ever October debut, and helped power the top 12 movies to their highest total, $110.3 million, since the middle of August. Analysts had anticipated $40 million to $45 million for the third instalment in the supernatural franchise.

The numbers for the Paramount release represented a significant increase over other horror films, which have struggled of late, and demolished the opening of "Paranormal Activity 2," which drew $40.7 million in its premiere on the same weekend last year.

"Horror fans came out in very large numbers this weekend, and that's a testament to the filmmakers and the enduring power of this franchise," said Rob Moore, Paramount Pictures vice chairman, alluding to the movie directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman.

While Moore declined to elaborate on future plans for the franchise, the numbers all but assured there will be a fourth "Paranormal" film, and solidified "Paranormal's" status as the Halloween heir to the "Saw" series, which reliably yielded a hit every October for the past seven years.

In keeping with the general pattern for horror pictures, "Paranormal" drew a higher proportion of women, who came out to see "Paranormal Activity 3" at a ratio of 54% to 46% compared with men. About 53% of the total audience was under age 25.

The movie grossed an additional $26 million upon its debut in international territories, which included France, Australia and Russia, Paramount said.

Still, it remains to be seen how the movie will perform in the coming weeks. While filmgoers came out in sizable numbers to see the horror prequel, they didn't necessarily like what they saw: The film notched an average grade of C+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The first "Paranormal Activity" took in $107 million in the U.S., while the second film garnered about $85 million. (Reuters)

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