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your box office explained

Your Box Office Explained: Paranormal Activity 3 Scares Up Big Money

This Weekend’s Winner: With an estimated $54 million opening, Paramount Pictures’ Paranormal Activity 3 took possession of the best fall opening ever from the studio’s previous record-holder, Jackass 3D.

This Weekend’s Losers: Lots of blame to go around with lackluster releases like The Mighty Macs ($1.06 million from just under a thousand venues) and Johnny English Reborn, (3.8 million from roughly 1,500 engagements), but the biggest defeat was clearly suffered by The Three Musketeers, grossing just $8.8 million from nearly 3,000 theaters.

How It All Went Down: Insiders tell Vulture that Paramount brass knew they had a compelling film on their hands, so they set up a large number of Twitter-hyped screenings that really got word-of-mouth rolling: Having been established as a must-see-ASAP, PA3 earned nearly 49 percent of its opening weekend gross from Friday night alone, the ninth-highest Friday night box office in recorded movie history. (Thank those with time on their hands and money to spend: Well more than half its audience, 54 percent, was under 25.)

As a measure of just how poorly The Three Musketeers was marketed and distributed, consider that it opened not only behind both Real Steel ($11.3 million, in its third weekend) and Footloose ($10.9 million in its second), but that those two films each lost less than a third of their audiences from the previous weekend.

Part of the blame lies with the Musketeers trailers, which seemed so obsessed with bringing 21st century technology to bear on a 17th century story that it promised the worst of both eras: Action that seems hopelessly anachronistic (A war-blimp? What is this, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow ?) and dialogue that's worrisomely laugh-free.

Insiders say that the other problem faced by The Three Musketeers wasn’t just tired subject matter, but that that Summit Entertainment had no financial stake in the film, save for the cost of marketing and releasing it (a point Milla Jovovich took to making on Twitter last week). That lack of skin-in-the-game really showed, beginning with a willingness to share a release date with PA3: Tracking — not to mention common sense — showed everyone under 25 was headed to see Paranormal Activity 3 to begin with. But when PA3 started to get good reviews (Tomatometer: 72 percent) and Musketeers started to get bad reviews (Tomatometer: 27 percent), per our spy, “it made Paranormal substantially over-perform tracking and Musketeers substantially under-perform tracking.” (Not surprisingly, overwhelmingly two thirds, 64 percent, of the Musketeers crowd was over the age of 25.)

An $8.8 million gross is especially sad when you consider that ten years ago Universal made $10.1 million in the opening weekend of The Musketeer, a chopsocky version that starred Grey’s Anatomy star Justin Chambers as D’Artagnan. That’s over a million more dollars with two fewer musketeers; one has to think Summit is now wondering how much better they’d have done with no musketeers at all.

Photo: Paramount Pictures