Weekend Report: ‘Couples Retreat’ Advances, ‘Paranormal Activity’ Spikes

While weekend business as a whole was relatively modest for the time of year (albeit up seven percent from last year), the sole new nationwide release Couples Retreat, the spreading Paranormal Activity and holdovers Zombieland and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs all boasted impressive showings.

Landing smack dab in the middle of the debut weekends for star Vince Vaughn's previous relationship comedies Four Christmases and The Break-Up, Couples Retreat attracted $34.3 million on approximately 3,800 screens at 3,000 sites, claiming the highest-grossing Columbus Day weekend gross on record ahead of the similarly-appealing Meet the Parents (which still had greater attendance). In its marketing, the picture was presented in the same vein as Meet the Parents and the other Vaughn movies, featuring relatable themes and verbal and slapstick humor, topped off with a sunny vacation setting. Distributor Universal Pictures' exit polling indicated that the "humor" and "Vince Vaughn" were the top reasons people saw Couples and that 61 percent of the audience was female and 56 percent was 30 years of age and older, so Couples skewed a bit older and more male than Four Christmases and The Break-Up.

Expanding to 160 sites, Paranormal Activity surged to a spectacular $7.9 million for a $9.1 million total since it started with midnight-only showings on Sept. 25. The horror movie broke the minor record of highest-grossing weekend ever for a movie playing at less than 200 theaters, exceeding Platoon's $3.7 million at 174 sites (which would be nearly on par adjusted for ticket-price inflation). With its micro-budget documentary style, advertising focusing on how much it's scaring audiences and its tapping into the popular haunting sub-genre, Paranormal appears to be channeling The Blair Witch Project from ten years ago, though its box office, as great as it has been, hasn't matched that sensation at the same point. Blair Witch faded quickly after its first few weeks, and it remains to be seen if Paranormal can maintain its momentum. While the iron is still hot, though, distributor Paramount Pictures will roll it out into nationwide release on Oct. 16.

Zombieland held exceptionally well for the type of picture it is. The norm nowadays for a zombie movie is to tumble 60 percent or more in its second weekend, and horror comedies tend to fall off the map as well. But Zombieland only dipped 40 percent from its sub-genre-busting opening weekend, bagging $14.8 million for a $47.6 million tally in ten days, and it's well on its way to eclipsing the Dawn of the Dead remake as the highest-grossing zombie movie on record.

Easing 27 percent, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs had by far the smallest decline among nationwide releases. The animated comedy generated $11.5 million, and its total rose to $95.8 million in 24 days, which was more than such comparable titles as Bolt and Meet the Robinsons in the same amount of time.

Meanwhile, Toy Story / Toy Story 2 (3D) took a standard hit in its second weekend, down 38 percent to $7.8 million for a $22.8 million tally in ten days. The Invention of Lying fell a sharp 52 percent to $3.3 million for a soft $12.3 million in ten days. Whip It didn't find its footing in its second weekend but didn't collapse either, off 39 percent to $2.8 million for an $8.8 million tally in ten days. Capitalism: A Love Story proved less successful than director Michael Moore's previous movie Sicko, dropping 41 percent to $2.6 million and bringing its total to $9 million.

Last Weekend

'Zombieland' Livens Up Horror Comedy Genre

This Timeframe in Past Years:

• 2008 - 'Chihuahua' Remains Top Dog

• 2007 - 'Why Did I Get Married' Brightens Drab Weekend

• 2006 - 'Grudge' Budges in Popularity

• 2005 - 'Fog' Tops Soggy Weekend, Few Visit 'Elizabethtown'

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Weekend Box Office Results

• All Time October Opening Weekends