Weekend Report: ‘Paranormal’ Rages, ‘Saw’ Dulls
As a new horror sensation rose, another fell over the weekend. Paranormal Activity rolled out into more theaters and claimed the top spot, in part because the new releases were non-starters, including the latest movie in the usually reliable Saw franchise. Overall business was down 14 percent from last year, which featured the one-two punch of High School Musical 3: Senior Year and Saw V, but was still solid for the timeframe.

Jumping to approximately 2,500 screens at 1,945 sites (more than doubling last weekend's counts), Paranormal Activity raked in $21.1 million, and its total grew to $61.6 million in 31 days. Since the supernatural horror had already reached nationwide release last weekend, it was not going to see a box office bump commensurate with its theater increase, but it was still up eight percent. Comparable title, The Blair Witch Project, bled 17 percent after a similar expansion, but, then again, that picture was performing at a much greater attendance level. With Halloween still ahead and playing into the movie's group scare experience, Paranormal Activity is on track to becoming one of the higher grossing entries in its sub-genre and has already surpassed the final tallies of White Noise and The Haunting in Connecticut.

Saw VI had by far the most anemic start of its franchise, drawing $14.1 million on around 4,000 screens at 3,036 sites. The previous low was the first movie, which opened five years ago at a then impressive $18.3 million. The series has been on the wane since the peak of Saw II, but still pulled in over $30 million with each opening weekend, until now. At this point, the sequels are strictly for the fans, and Saw VI's marketing, which simply announced the new movie with no new hooks or even a taste of the story, did no favors in the face of the budding new competition for fickle horror moviegoers from Paranormal Activity. Saw's consistency up until this point has been the exception, not the norm for a horror series.

The three other new nationwide releases fared worse than Saw VI. Astro Boy mustered a mere $6.7 million at 3,014 sites, which was sub-par but expected given that it was an action-oriented sci-fi animation, a type of picture that usually struggles. Coming off as an all-over-the-map fantasy that lacked the romantic appeal of most popular vampire movies and shows, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant notched a heartless $6.3 million at 2,754 sites. Quietly launched at 818 sites, Amelia was grounded at $3.9 million.

Meanwhile, Where the Wild Things Are tumbled an alarming 57 percent, though Law Abiding Citizen and Couples Retreat held relatively steady. Wild Things rustled up $14 million, lifting its total to $53.6 million in ten days, but its drop was much steeper than Bridge to Terabithia and other similar titles. Law Abiding Citizen posted $12.4 million, down 41 percent for a $40 million tally in ten days, while Couples Retreat drew $10.6 million, off 38 percent for a $77.7 million tally in 17 days. Yet again, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs had the smallest drop among non-expanding nationwide releases, easing 35 percent to $5.3 million for a fall season-leading $114.9 million tally in 38 days.

Last Weekend

'Wild Things' Roars, 'Citizen,' 'Activity' Thrill

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2008 - 'High School Musical' Cuts Footloose with 'Saw'

• 2007 - 'Saw IV' Loses Little Blood

• 2006 - 'Saw' Sharp in Third Outing

• 2005 - 'Saw II' Gores 'Zorro'

• 2004 - 'Grudge' Grabs Top Spot

Related Charts

Weekend Box Office Results

• Longest Times to Reach No. 1

• 'Saw' Opening Weekends