Paranormal Activity Scares Its Way to #1!

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The ComingSoon.net Box Office Report has been updated with studio estimates for the weekend. Click here for the full box office estimates of the top 12 films and then check back on Monday for the final figures based on actual box office.

With weeks of viral marketing and a promotional campaign driven by social networks like Twitter and Facebook behind it, Oren Eli’s Paranormal Activity (Paramount) expanded into just under 2,000 theaters on Friday and successfully took the box office with an estimated $22 million and an astounding cumulative gross of $62.5 million after less than a month in theaters. It’s surely going to be considered one of the memorable phenomena of 2009, having cost less than $15,000 to produce, the rights sold to Paramount for roughly $300,000 and then being distributed by one of the most unique and unconventional methods we’ve seen in some time. The L.A. Times is even reporting that Paramount has the option to make a sequel, which you can read about here.

Unfortunately, the success of Peli’s surprise hit also signified the first major hurdle in the seemingly unstoppable success of the “Saw” franchise, as the sixth installment Saw VI (Lionsgate) finally fell victim to the laws of diminishing returns, opening with just $14.8 million, less than half the opening of the previous four installments. It was the lowest opening for the annual franchise which kicked off in 2004 with the original movie opening with $18.3 million, at the time a huge success considering the film only cost a million to make. Certainly the success of Saw, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival that year, has paved the way for low-budget horror films like Paranormal Activity, which was first seen at the smaller Slamdance Film Festival in 2008.

As far as the rest of the box office, Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are (Warner Bros.) tanked in its second weekend, dropping 56% to third place with $14.4 million and a ten-day total of $54 million, while the Gerard Butler-Jamie Foxx thriller Law Abiding Citizen (Overture Films) is starting to catch up in their respective second weekends, dropping just 40% to make $12.7 million in its second weekend and $40.3 million total.

The hit situational comedy Couples Retreat (Universal) took fifth place with $11.1 million and $78.2 million total.

As far as the two new movies for younger people, the animated adventure Astro Boy (Summit) opened in sixth place with $7 million, while Paul Weitz’s young adult fantasy Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (Universal) settled for eighth place, grossing just $6.3 million in its first weekend, averaging roughly $2,300 per site in 2,754 theaters.

In between the two new movies, Screen Gems’ remake of The Stepfather dropped to seventh place with $6.5 million, a modest 44% drop from its opening week, and $20.3 million total.

The Top 10 was rounded out by Sony’s dual hit comedies, the animated Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs with $5.6 million, bringing its total to $115.2 million, and the R-rated Zombieland, which added $4.3 million to its total take of $67.3 million.

The Top 10 grossed roughly $105 million, down 9% from the same weekend last year when Disney’s High School Musical 3 topped the box office with over $40 million, followed by the previous “Saw” installment Saw V with $30 million.

Opening in 11th place, Mira Nair’s biopic Amelia (Fox Searchlight) starring Hilary Swank as the legendary aviator, took in $4 million in 818 theaters, averaging nearly $5,000 per site, the second best average in the Top 12 after Paranormal Activity.

Lars von Trier’s controversial Antichrist opened with $73.5 thousand in 6 theaters in New York and L.A., averaging $12.2k per site, while Katherine Dieckman’s Motherhood, starring Uma Thurman, only grossed $58 thousand in 48 theaters.

Click here for the full box office results of the top 12 films.