October Starts Strong, Ends on Down Note
October box office got off to a phenomenal start thanks to Taken 2 and holdover grosses from Hotel Transylvania, but a weak end-of-month slate kept it from setting a new monthly record. Total grosses came in around $673 million, which is up 10 percent on 2011 but off from 2010 ($688 million) and current record-holder 2009 ($693 million). The biggest culprit for this slight miss is Paranormal Activity 4, which would have single-handedly covered the difference if it had performed in line with its predecessor.

After a very strong $49.5 million debut, Taken 2 wound up being the highest-grossing movie in October with $119 million. Despite its poor reviews, the action sequel turned out decent word-of-mouth, which led to surprisingly good holds throughout its first four weekends. It's likely going to fall a bit short of the first Taken's $145 million total, but it's already more than doubled that movie's foreign take and is without a doubt a massive success for 20th Century Fox.

Hotel Transylvania opened in the last few days of September, but played well enough in October to take second place with $89.9 million (total of $132.4 million). It's already the highest-grossing pure-animation movie from Sony Pictures Animation, and it's on pace to pass The Smurfs ($142.6 million) within the next few weeks to become their top movie ever.

Argo took first place on 13 days this month, which is more than any other title, but it still had to settle for third place in grosses with $64.3 million. Directed by and starring Ben Affleck, the Iranian hostage crisis thriller debuted to $19.5 million but had exceptional holds in its second and third weekends (16 percent and 27 percent, respectively), and even managed to move in to first place in its third frame. It's still tracking a bit behind Affleck's The Town through its first 20 days ($66.7 million), but it's hanging on much better and should ultimately close above that movie's $92.2 million total.

With $47 million, Pitch Perfect was a surprise fourth place finisher in October. Universal Pictures implemented a creative release strategy that build word-of-mouth with a limited debut at the end of September, and that appears to have paid dividends: while it's definitely no Bridesmaids, a final tally near $60 million isn't bad at all for this modest production.

Looper and Sinister were also each modestly successful in September. Looper grossed $41.4 million this month for an overall total of $62.2 million, which is solid for a sci-fi movie that's doing good business overseas. Sinister earned $40.1 million through its first 20 days, which is about the level at which these original horror movies get a pass.

Paranormal Activity 4 leads the way among a handful of October releases that can safely be considered disappointments in October. The movie rounded out the Top Five this month with $44.7 million through its first 13 days, which is less than Paranormal Activity 3 made in its first three days. While Paranormal Activity 4's micro-budget and light marketing effort means it will be profitable, it's going to be the lowest-grossing entry in the franchise by far.

Frankenweenie couldn't handle the unexpectedly strong competition from Hotel Transylvania and wound up with just $32.4 million through nearly four weeks in theaters. Here Comes the Boom earned $31.5 million, and is on pace to be star Kevin James's lowest-grossing title ever. At $20.7 million, Alex Cross is also poised to be Tyler Perry's worst outing ever, while Seven Psychopaths grossed just $12.5 million and is quickly retreating from theaters.

The jury is still out on Cloud Atlas, though it's going to take a lot to come back from its poor $9.6 million debut. Things were even worse for the other movies that opened on the final weekend of the month: Silent Hill: Revelation 3D's $8 million launch was a fraction of its predecessor, while Fun Size ($4.1 million) and Chasing Mavericks ($2.3 million) barely registered.

The title for worst wide release of the month belongs to Atlas Shrugged: Part II, which earned less than $3.3 million through 20 days in theaters. In a embarassing feat that really didn't seem possible, it's actually going to earn less than its predecessor, which was a disaster with just $4.6 million. Clearly Ayn Rand's legion of fans aren't interested in seeing a lukewarm, stretched-out big-screen version of her seminal work, and it's hard to imagine any self-interested financiers coughing up the cash for Part III.

Through the end of October, year-to-date box office is at $8.78 billion, which is a four percent improvement over 2011 through the same point. It's about even with 2010, though, and will need a very strong final two months to beat 2009's record $10.596 billion.

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