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Source: Jeff Bock
Date: Oct 18, 2012


Cheap thrills don’t come any cheaper than Paramount’s “Paranormal Activity” franchise. Worldwide the first three films in the found footage horror series have generated a spook-tacular $576 million on a combined budget of less than $10 million. Not even a trip to Six Flags can compete with that kind of bang for your buck.

The latest cost just $5 million, matching the budget of the threequel, which was the first of the franchise to top $100+ million domestic and internationally. Odds are this one will fizzle out faster, but not by much, as this is still the hottest horror franchise around. It’s also Paramount’s most viable meal ticket now that Marvel and DreamWorks Animation have come down from the mountain, so don’t expect this year’s edition to be the last.

Opening Thursday at 9pm on approximately 3,000 screens and expanding to 3,412 screens on Friday (a franchise high), expect “Paranormal Activity 4” to throw a frightful fit at the box office this weekend and record up to $43 million.  

That number would be a slight uptick from the sequel—FYI, chronologically “Paranormal Activity 4” is a direct sequel of “PA2”—which registered $40 million in its debut, however the franchise-best opening was last year’s edition which rang up $52 million.

Jigsaw would kill for those kinds of numbers. Well, theoretically he did get killed by those numbers. Lionsgate’s “Saw” franchise was the champion chill pill for five straight years, starting a mini-horror revolution known as “torture porn” until Paramount finally sucked all the blood out of Lionsgate’s main box office vein, rolling out “Paranormal Activity” in 2009 and in doing so, delivered “Saw VI” a cutting blow.  That film debuted with a franchise low $14 million and Lionsgate pulled the plug on Jigsaw the following year after “Saw 3D.”

“Saw’s” run was remarkable in that it kept its budgets ridiculously low, making their budget back on opening weekend each and every outing. And, it was the first series of hit horror flicks that arrived on an annual basis in October—people like to be scared on Halloween?!? Whaaaaaa?—eventually totaling seven straight fright flicks from 2004-2010. “Paranormal Activity” and their amateurish scare tactics took over in 2009 and haven’t looked back.

And although “Sinister” made a dent last week debuting with $18 million, it certainly didn’t reinvent the horror genre like “Paranormal Activity” did. Even though “PA” owes its “found footage” success to 1999’s “The Blair Witch Project,” it is still the hottest horror genre out there. Bet the producers of “Blair Witch” wish they had stayed with the shaky-cam for the sequel. If they did, they’d probably be billionaires now. That said, I think its prime time for a “Blair Witch” reboot…or at least a crossover.

“Tyler Perry’s Alex Cross…” Whoops. Nope. Sorry, creature of habit. “Alex Cross,” starring Tyler Perry (not writing or directing), also debuts in theaters this weekend and is the first film Perry has starred in that he hasn’t had his name in front of in a long time.

After making a mint with his Madea character and African-American dramas, Perry and Lionsgate hope to expand his fanbase with the PG-13 thriller based on James Patterson’s hit series of novels. Morgan Freeman had success with this same character in the late 90’s/early 00’s with Paramount’s “Kiss the Girls” and “Along Came a Spider.”  

With a $35 million production budget, “Alex Cross” is a hedged bet, and all involved are very keen on turning this property into a long-running franchise. Patterson certainly has the source material as Alex Cross appears in over a dozen novels.  In 2,539 theaters, expect Perry to track down $16 million for starters…


Weekend Estimates

1.       Paranormal Activity 4 - $43M

2.       Alex Cross - $16M

3.       Argo - $12M

4.       Taken 2 - $11.5M

5.       Hotel Transylvania - $11M 


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