Weekend US box office report: Couples Retreat wins, Paranormal Activity expands

News Ron Hogan
12 Oct 2009 - 07:38

Couples Retreat gets off to a flier, but keep your eye on Paranormal Activity, as the sleeper hit gathers legs. Ron has the box office round-up...

The fact that Couples Retreat took home the weekend is not a surprise. After all, it was the only movie opening in wide release this weekend, so it'd have to be a complete dud not to draw interested audiences. Given it has Vince Vaughn, that's impossible. It took first this week with $35.34 million this weekend. 

However, something very interesting happened this week.  Paramount's midnight movie, Paranormal Activity, jumped from twentieth to fifth this weekend in only 160 theaters. In its first weekend not playing solely at midnight, the low-budget horror brought in a staggering $7.066 million. That's an average of $44,000 per screening! The movie has been built perfectly. By limiting itself to small, incremental releases and by building the buzz to a fevered pitch, Paranormal Activity has built itself up in the classic exploitation picture fashion and is reaping huge benefits because of it. When this thing finally goes wide (this Friday), it should be number one. Whip It (eighth place, $2.8 million) could have benefited from that sort of development. 

Last week's number one, Zombieland, continues to perform strongly.  Given the standard drop for zombie movies and horror comedies, the fact that Zombieland held on to second place with a strong $15 million is surprising, but not overly so. There wasn't a lot of competition out there for its audience of zombie fans, and October is the best month to put out any scary movie. The fact that it, like Paranormal Activity, is getting good word of mouth helps quite a bit.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs continues to race towards $100 million, picking up an additional $12 million (good for third place) this weekend for $96 million so far in the US. That would make it officially Sony's first big animated hit, and their best performance since the disappointing Open Season in 2006, albeit not one akin to the Toy Story (fourth place, $7.6 million) franchise's great success over the years. Sony is really committed to building an animation studio, and this is a great start. While it's not something with a lot of franchise potential, there is Pickles To Pittsburgh that can be adapted.

Surrogates hasn't really gotten a chance, it seems. The relatively big-budgeted picture dropped to sixth this weekend, with $4.115 million in grosses. Damningly, it's well short of its listed $80 million budget.  The September release date suggested little hope of success, but to see it fail like this is pretty frightening for fans of Bruce Willis.

Speaking of frightening for fans, Ricky Gervais fans should skip this paragraph. The Invention Of Lying drops to seventh this weekend on grosses of only $3.37 million. While it's close to turning a profit, it also cost practically nothing to make, so it's not exactly a best-case scenario, and definitely not the breakout comedy Gervais and handlers keep looking for. 

I wonder if Michael Moore is glad that the presidency has changed parties, or if he's secretly irritated. After all, when George Bush was in office his anti-Bush Fahrenheit 9/11 was a hundred-million-dollar picture; now his latest, Capitalism: A Love Story (ninth place, $2.7 million), is struggling to bring in $10 million in the US despite hitting nearly 1000 theaters. Even Fame (tenth place, $2.55 million) has grossed more money!

This weekend is going to be a big one. Most importantly, Paranormal Activity is going wide in the US. Also out next weekend is PG-13 horror The Stepfather, the family adventure Where The Wild Things Are (which might beat Paranormal out for number one), and the star-studded thriller Law Abiding Citizen

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