Weekend Report: ‘Wild Things’ Roars, ‘Citizen,’ ‘Activity’ Thrill

Between the openings of Where the Wild Things Are and Law Abiding Citizen and the nationwide expansion of Paranormal Activity, overall weekend business was booming by October standards, leaping 38 percent ahead of last year and posting a record gross for the timeframe.

Where the Wild Things Are emitted a $32.7 million howl on approximately 5,000 screens at 3,735 sites, including around $3.1 million at 145 IMAX sites. The picture's daily box office pattern suggested that it didn't play like a typical family picture, rising only two percent on Saturday, and the demographics bore this out. According to distributor Warner Bros., the audience composition was 43 percent 18 years and older, 14 percent 12-17 years old, 27 percent parents who had kids under 12, and 16 percent kids under 12, and it was 55 percent female.

While Where the Wild Things Are wasn't earth-shattering, it clawed its way into the top tier among debuts for children's book adaptations that aren't Harry Potter and was mightier than Bridge to Terabithia, Jumanji and other comparable titles. The multi-generational popularity of the book and the picture's attention-grabbing style were drivers, but the marketing campaign also distinctly conveyed an exuberant and sentimental trip into the universal experience of childhood, between its squiggly writing to its use of music.

Law Abiding Citizen cashed in as the first straight thriller of the season, racking up $21 million on around 3,600 screens at 2,890 sites. In terms of attendance, that was comparable to Kiss the Girls and Changing Lanes among similar movies and was above the norm for a popular genre that's often ignored on many slates (upstart distributor Overture Films took advantage of this). Featuring a dueling Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx, Law Abiding Citizen's advertising tapped into the appealing thriller elements of revenge, law, adversarial interplay and serial killer action, and did it in a clear, spelled-out way. Overture did not report any specific demographics but said the audience was slightly more male than female.

Scaring up $19.6 million in its rollout to over 1,250 screens at 760 sites, Paranormal Activity logged the fourth highest-grossing weekend for a movie playing at under 1,000 sites behind the Hannah Montana concert, Borat and Fahrenheit 9/11. While not in The Blair Witch Project's league, Paranormal's nationwide launch would rate above average for a supernatural horror movie, a feat made more impressive by its modest theater count. With $33.2 million in the till since its Sept. 25 opening, the picture has a ways to go before it can be labeled a phenomenon, but it has proven a popular entry in the perennially popular supernatural horror sub-genre.

Paling compared to the three other nationwide debuts, The Stepfather (2009) drew $11.6 million on around 3,100 screens at 2,734 sites, which was rather pedestrian for a psycho horror thriller albeit more than the 1987 version made. The horror remake changed the gender of the lead teen character from the original's female to male, making it less relatable to the female audience that propels this type of picture. That change also made the new Stepfather look like a knock-off of Disturbia, but with a far more mundane premise. Distributor Sony Pictures' exit polling indicated that 54 percent of the audience was female and 55 percent under 21 years old.

Last weekend's top grosser, Couples Retreat, lost a little more ground than The Break-Up and other relationship comedies did in their second weekends. It was off 50 percent to $17.2 million, lifting its total to $62.6 million in ten days. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs again had the smallest decline among nationwide releases, falling 30 percent to $8 million for a strong $108.2 million tally in 31 days. Zombieland continued to hold decently for a zombie movie, retreating 48 percent to $7.6 million. Its total grew to $60.6 million in 17 days, surpassing the Dawn of the Dead remake to become the highest-grossing zombie movie on record.

Last Weekend

'Couples Retreat' Advances, 'Paranormal Activity' Spikes

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2008 - 'Max Payne' Limps Atop Weekend

• 2007 - '30 Days of Night' Leads Lifeless Crowd

• 2006 - 'Prestige' Rises to the Top, 'Flags' Lags

• 2005 - 'Doom' and Gloom

• 2004 - Puppets Can't 'Dance:' 'Team America' Debuts Below Hype

Related Charts

Weekend Box Office Results

• All Time October Opening Weekends

• Children's Book Adaptations - Opening Weekends

• Supernatural Horror Movies - Opening Weekends