If it weren’t obvious enough from the last two go-arounds, then this weekend sealed Paranormal Activity’s status as the next Saw franchise, dominant for at least another three or four Halloweens before it starts tapering off and something else takes its place. Topping even the most optimistic forecasts, Paranormal Activity 3 had the biggest September/October opening ever with $54 million, a full $14 million higher than the previous entry in the series. And against a budget of $5 million—most of which was spent to bribe the ghost and stunt ghosts—it’s a money-making machine like no other. That left The Three Musketeers with $8.8 million (for fourth) in crumbs, despite a big budget, a director-star team in Paul W.S. Anderson and Milla Jovovich that had stuck gold on the Resident Evil movies, and the countless successful Alexandre Dumas adaptations past. Johnny English Reborn fared even worse with $3.8 million for eighth, but that “failure” comes with an asterisk: America may not have asked for a sequel to the James Bond spoof that flopped eight years ago, but there was demand internationally, so the next time you see a European, punch him in the arm.
Lots of excitement in limited release, where the prestige films of fall are finally starting to roll out. The superb Sundance drama Martha Marcy May Marlene opened robustly, with $34,500 per screen on four screens, the highest average for any new release. Good reviews and good timing also assisted Margin Call, a thriller (of sorts) about 24 hours on the cusp of the current financial crisis. A $10,393 per screen average would be solid by most measures, but on a substantial 56 arthouse screens, the number looks even more impressive, with the film having banked $582,000 for the weekend. Despite having a teeny-tiny distributor, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey rode strong notices to $25,000 on one screen and looks to be a sleeper documentary hit. The inspirational women’s college basketball movie The Mighty Macs grossed more than any independent film this weekend with $1.06 million, but don’t mistake that number for success; it registered a feeble $1,090 per screen average, making that Mighty Macs/Mighty Ducks crossover movie seem all the more unlikely.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.