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Weekend box office: Abnormal activity

Posted by Ty Burr  October 26, 2009 07:04 AM

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It's official: "Paranormal Activity" is a phenomenon. In its fifth week in release, the plucky little $15,000 horror movie (just look at those production values!) finally went seriously wide -- onto 2,500 screens in 1,985 theaters, up from 760 the week before -- and held its water. The weekend's $22 million take took the total gross for "Paranormal" to $62 million and the $11,000 per-theater-average means there's still a lot of want-to-see for this movie.

Much more to the point, "Paranormal Activity" rolled right over "Saw VI," which took in a measly $14 million in its debut weekend. Rarely do you get two variations on the same genre going head to head with so clear a winner: the unnerving single-camera suspense of "Paranormal," a movie that can scare you silly while basically showing you nothing, versus the cynically explicit gross-outs of the bottomed-out "Saw" franchise. Time to hang it up, Jigsaw -- we can frighten ourselves just fine.

"Where the Wild Things Are" took a sizable 56% drop in its second weekend, which makes sense, really: It's a market correction that filters out the family audience with younger kids that went last weekend and got burned by the film's dark whimsies.

"Astro Boy" ($7 million) and "Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant" ($6.3 million) were toast, but the weekend's biggest loser may have been the aviation biopic "Amelia," which taxied into 800 theaters and made -- ouch -- $4 million, with a $5,000 per-theater-average that was about the same as "Saw VI." Not quite the reception star Hilary Swank is used to; the crippling reviews didn't help. By the way, which two movies had a higher PTA than "Paranormal Activity"? "An Education," Lone Scherfig's witty coming-of-age tale, is averaging $13,000 at each of its 31 theaters, and -- from the sublime to the ridiculous -- Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" is raking in an average $12,000 at each of its six venues. Which proves there's a larger audience for genital mutilation than previously thought. Don't tell the "Saw" producers.

More box office numbers from Box Office Mojo and Movie City News' Leonard Klady.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

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