SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM UPDATE: Oh, the glory of being the only new movie in the multiplex, even if it’s an unfunny laugher. Universal’s Couples Retreat opened to $12.3M Friday and +10% for $13.5M Saturday from 3,000 North American theaters for a $35.3M weekend. Wow, Vince Vaughn’s latest piece of dreck will make geniuses out of Universal’s newly installed chairpeople. “Reason? Movies always do business after the studio heads get fired,” one studio exec emailed me tonight. [Universal Pictures chairmen Marc Shmuger and David Linde were replaced by Adam Fogelson and Donna Langley this week.] Couples Retreat is a PG-13 “comedy” but I use that term loosely since even the studio thought it worse than mediocre. But that’s what happens when Vaughn cuts loose to star in, co-write, and produce a dumb idea that was an excuse to film in Bora Bora with pal Peter Billingsley as first-time director and other pal Jon Favreau as fellow writer and actor. Yet the pic did even better than Universal or its rivals thought possible. With only a “B” CinemaScore, it’s leading in interest and first choice among females over 25, followed by males over 25, and then females under 25. (They really like Vince’s about-to-be-40 bloat?)
But the real story this weekend is one I told you about last Sunday. (See my ‘Paranormal Activity’ Gets Freakishly Good Gross Playing Only After Midnight.) Remember The Blair Witch Project? Even rival studios are salivating over the box office potential of the Paramount pickup Paranormal Activity, which opened September 25th playing only midnight shows. But it did so well that Paramount expanded Friday, and the pic rewarded that confidence with a per screen average Friday of $15,875. That gives it $2.5M on Friday and $2.6M Saturday from a paltry 159 locations, or $7M for the weekend! “it’s pretty amazing,” a paramount exec tells me. “We assumed the film would perform like most genre movies and fall Friday to Saturday. Instead the movie looks like it will do more.” It’s now officially a pre-Halloween phenomenon. “Look out cuz there’s a freight train coming, and Paramount is going to make a TON of cash on this pickup. Cuz they ain’t spending anything on it, and who knows where the ceiling is!” one rival studio exec gushed to me. I’m told this #5 pic could make the most gross of any non-3D film on less than 200 screens. Limited releases not adjusted for inflation or ticket prices were 1986′s Platoon $3.7M on 174 screens, 2000′s Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon $3.4M on 172 screens, and 2007′s No Country For Old Men $3.1M on 148 screens.
As for the rest of the Top 10, nothing but holdovers on a fall weekend oddly missing new titles. It’ll definitely be a $100+M weekend up, +8% from last year:
1. Couples Retreat (Universal) NEW [3,000] $12.3M Fri, $13.5M Sat, Wkd $35.3M
2. Zombieland (Sony) Week 2 [3,038] Wkd $15M, Cume $47.8M
3. Meatballs (Sony) Week 3 [2,992] Wkd $12M, Cume $96.2M
4. Toy Story 3D (Disney) Week 2 [1,752] Wkd $7.6M, Cume $22.6M
5. Paranormal Activity (Paramount) Week 3  Wkd $7M, Cume $8.2M
6. Surrogates (Disney) Week 3 [2,992] Wkd $4.1M, Cume $32.5M
7. Invention Of Lying (Warner Bros) Week 2 [1,743] Wkd $3.3M, Cume 12.3M
8. Whip It (Fox Searchlight) Week 2 [1,738] Wkd $2.8M, Cume $8.7M
9. Capitalism: A Love Story (Overture) Week 3  Wkd $2.7M, Cume $9M
10. Fame (MGM) Week 3 [3,110] Wkd $2.5M, Cume 20M
Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.