It hadn't exactly been a blockbuster year for horror movies at the box office.
Until Paranormal Activity 3.
The found-footage franchise's latest installment scored a $26.2 million opening day, and a $54 million opening weekend.
The debut is easily the biggest for a fright fest released in 2011. Just last week, The Thing prequel failed to impress, leaving its studio to tick off other recent horror movies that, though money-makers, didn't incite many screams for their performances.
"It seems to be a little bit of a malaise in the genre," Universal exec Nikki Rocco said. "I think the industry goes through that. Next week, Paranormal Activity might turn out to be fantastic."
And that it did.
Forgetting horror movies, Paranormal Activity 3's opening is the biggest ever for n film launched in October, Exhibitor Relations said, and the biggest for Hollywood since Rise of the Planet of the Apes. It's also the largest yet for the Paranormal Activity series, topping 2's own monster $40.7 million start.
Speaking of monsters…
The vampires and wolves of Planet Twilight will be back to reassert their kind's multiplex supremacy in about four weeks. (Not that anyone's keeping track…)
Elsewhere, American audiences snubbed two Euro favorites: Rowan Atkinson and The Three Musketeers. Atkinson's Johnny English Reborn, which has made more than $100 million overseas, came away with just $3.8 million here; the 3-D-modified Musketeers retelling, which is approaching $50 million at the international box office, scored a one-dimensional $8.8 million.
Among the holdovers, Hugh Jackman's Real Steel got muscled out of the No. 1 spot after a two-weekend stay, but broke $150 million wordwide.
Footloose held well ($30.9 million overall domestically), as did The Ides of March ($29.2 million), Dolphin Tale ($64.4 million) and Moneyball ($63.7 million).
The Thing dropped like a rock, while The Big Year dropped out of the Top 10 altogether. After two weekends, the $28 million Steve Martin, Jack Black and Owen Wilson comedy has made just $6 million domestically.
The Lion King rerelease exited the Top 10 after a stellar five-weekend stay that saw the 17-year-old film outgross every new fall film to date.
A documentary on Sesame Street resident Kevin Clash, Being Elmo, starred in limited release, grossing $25,158 at one theater.
Here's a complete look at the weekend's top movies, as compiled from the studios' domestic estimates and Exhibitor Relations stats:
(Originally published Oct. 23, 2011, at 8:35 a.m. PT)