For the second year in a row the Saw franchise missed out on a number one launch as the remarkable Paranormal Activity beat Lionsgate’s annual horror update into second place.

  • Paramount’s humble horror release climbed two places to number one and delivered further proof that this rags-to-riches story will be remembered for many years to come as it added a further $22m in its biggest weekend to date from an expanded 1,945 theatre count.

While it seems unlikely to reach the $140.5m final gross of the ultimate indie horror hit, The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity deserves to be mentioned in the same breath in terms of widespread reaction and sheer profitability.

Shot for approximately $15,000, this is easily one of the most profitable horror films in history, even accounting for the studio’s marketing spend after it acquired domestic rights last year for a little over $300,000. Paramount holds worldwide rights to a sequel but had not announced Paranormal 2 at time of writing.

The film’s meteoric rise echoes the glorious origins of the Saw franchise, however Lionsgate executives will take little comfort from this. Saw VI grossed $14.8m from a far wider 3,036 theatres and this was the lowest debut of the six-year franchise.

  • Lionsgate top brass will have accepted opening second this time last year behind High School Musical 3 because the latter was a pop culture phenomenon that was always going to be hard to beat. To lose out to another horror film will be a tough pill to swallow, even though Saw VI’s $11m price-tag means it will go into profit.

Further ignominy may follow if Where The Wild Things Are very close behind in third place overtakes Saw VI on Monday when the studio release final figures. Next weekend looks gloomy: Paranormal Activity will remain an enticing draw over the Halloween session and looks a good bet to secure second place behind the Michael Jackson tribute film This Is It, which should be a certain winner for Sony.

Where The Wild Things Are added $14.4m for Warner Bros for $53.9m in its second weekend. Summit’s Astro Boy launched in sixth on a little over $7m from 3,014, while Universal’s action adventure Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant debuted in eighth on $6.3m for 2,754.

  • Fox Searchlight’s awards hopeful Amelia starring Hilary Swank opened in 11th place on $4m from 818. Lars von Trier’s horror tale Antichrist grossed $73,500 from six through IFC for a decent $12,250 per-theatre average.

Apparition launched the Blaxploitation homage Black Dynamite and grossed $173,094 from 27, while Jane Campion’s awards contender Bright Star added $224,156 from 209 for $3.9m. Samuel Goldwyn Films released the Adam Goldberg and Marley Shelton comedy Untitled on three screens in New York and LA for $19,145.

  • Next weekend everybody makes way for Sony’s Michael Jackson tribute film This Is It.

Estimated Top 10 North America October 23-25 2009
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (3) Paranormal Activity (Paramount) IM Global $22m $62.5m

2 (-) Saw VI (Lionsgate) Mandate Int’l $14.8m –

3 (1) Where The Wild Things Are (Warner Bros) WBPI $14.4m $53.9m

4 (2) Law Abiding Citizen (Overture) The Film Dept $12.7m $40.3m

5 (4) Couples Retreat (Universal) UPI $11.1m $78.2m

6 (-) Astro Boy (Summit) Summit Int’l $7m –

7 (5) The Stepfather (Sony) SPRI $6.5m $20.4m

8 (-) Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant (Universal) UPI $6.3m –

9 (6) Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs (Sony) SPRI $5.6m $115.2m

10 (7) Zombieland (Sony) SPRI $4.3m $67.3m