BOX OFFICE: Will Third Paranormal Be a Charmer?

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No more Weekend Warrior, but as promised, we’ll still be doing box office predictions in a trimmed-down format, and this week, we have two very different genre movies, the sequel to a family film and a lot of great movies in limited release.

Obviously, the success of the sequel last year points to there still being interest in a Paranormal Activity 3 (Paramount), this time a prequel directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman of the Sundance hit Catfish. Opening on Thursday at 10PM, following earlier sneak previews on Tuesday, it might dilute the amount of business the horror movie can get over the weekend, but there are enough fans itching for something familiar and comfortable as well as horror fans who haven’t gotten anything satisfying in far too long. Because of this, we think the third movie will join the second in the $40 million plus opening club, making nearly $20 million of that between Thursday and Friday, then tail off just as quickly after opening weekend. It probably won’t see $100 million theatrically but made for a fraction of that, you can expect a fourth movie to be greenlit by this time next week. Either way, it will be the first movie since Rise of the Planet of the Apes to cross the $35 million mark after a slow couple of months.

Meanwhile, Paul W.S. Anderson breaks away from his futuristic genre work and the “Resident Evil” franchise with his version of Alexandre Dumas’ classic literary heroes The Three Musketeers (Summit Entertainment), this one starring Logan Lerman, Matthew Macfadyen, Ray Stevenson, Luke Evans and Anderson’s Baby Mama Milla Jovovich, as well as Orlando Bloom, Christoph Waltz and Mads Mikkelsen. It’s a great cast for sure, and normally, plenty of guys and women would give this look due to the combination of swashbuckling action and fun, but it’s likely to lose much of the audience under 25 to “Paranormal” and older audiences may be dubious of this take on it.

For no reason we can think of, Rowan (“Mr. Bean”) Atkinson decided to return to his earlier spy spoof with Johnny English Reborn (Universal), getting a fairly moderate release to fulfill Universal’s deal with Working Title, but frankly, the original movie didn’t do that great here and neither kids nor parents will be that interested in seeing his return. Opening in roughly 1,500 theaters, we think this will tank similar to last week’s The Big Year, but be able to eek out $4 million or so.

Being self-released in roughly a thousand theaters, Tim Chambers’ The Mighty Macs (Freestyle Releasing) stars Carla Gugino as Cathy Rush, a woman hired as a coach at Immaculata College facing challenges in getting a team together. One would think that a G-rating and a religious leaning might help this bring in older audiences not into sex or violence or anything nearly as fun as sex and violence, but we don’t expect this one to get much interest and join other movies that were released far too wide (rather than getting a focused limited release) by opening outside the Top 10 with less than a million dollars, possibly closer to $600,000.

This weekend also offers four new movies in limited release, which are Sean Durkin’s psychological thriller Martha Marcy May Marlene (Fox Searchlight), starring Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes, the toast of Sundance as it follows Olsen’s character trying to escape and recover from a cult-like community and its dangerous leader. (You can read our earlier review here)

Also, Ken Loach’s kid Jim directs the moving drama Oranges and Sunshine (Cohen Media Group) starring Emily Watson as Margaret Humphreys, a British social worker who discovers a shocking secret about the British government shipping off hundreds of little kids to live in orphanages in a remote area of Australia.

There are also a couple of great docs including Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (Submarine) from Constance Marks, a look at Kevin Clash, the man behind the squeaky red kid monster who first appeared on “Sesame Street” and went on to create his own empire of products for preschoolers. Chris Paine’s Revenge of the Electric Car (Area 23A), a follow-up to his 2006 movie Who Killed the Electric Car?, follows the efforts of three very different industrialists trying to revive and mass-produce an electric car despite the current economic problems in order to help save our environment: General Motors’ Bob Lutz, Tesla Motors dot-com billionaire Elon Musk and Nissan head Carlos Ghosn.

(We also have a stack of screeners we haven’t had a chance to watch, so there may be a couple other good movies in there but the above are the ones we’ve seen and liked.)

This weekend last year saw the release of the sequel Paranormal Activity 2 (Paramount), the sole new wide release, and it dominated movie theaters with $40.7 million in 3,216 theaters, followed by Jackass 3D with $21 million and Red with $15 million.

This Week’s Predictions

1. Paranormal Activity 3 (Paramount) – $41.4 million N/A (~3,250 theaters)

2. The Three Musketeers (Summit Entertainment) – $13.7 million N/A (~3,000 theaters)

3. Real Steel (DreamWorks) – $9.8 million -40% (~3200 theaters)

4. Footloose (Paramount) – $9.5 million -38% (~3,549 theaters)

5. The Ides of March (Sony) – $4.6 million -35% (~2,050 theaters)

6. Dolphin Tale (Warner Bros.) – $4.4 million -30% (~2,950 theaters)

7. Johnny English Reborn (Universal) – $4.0 million N/A (~1,560 theaters)

8. The Thing (Universal) – $3.5 million -59% (~2,997 theaters)

9. Moneyball (Sony) – $3.4 million -38% (~2,550 theaters)

10. 50/50 (Summit) – $2.8 million -35% (~2,070 theaters)

Next week, the month of October comes to a close with four new movies including Antonio Banderas’ return as the voice of Shrek sidekick Puss In Boots (DreamWorks Animation/Paramount), Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried in the sci-fi action-thriller In Time (20th Century Fox), Johnny Depp starring in the adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary (FimDistrict), and Roland Emmerich’s Shakespeare exposé Anonymous (Sony).

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Copyright 2011 Edward Douglas