SUNDAY AM, 4TH UPDATE: (Top Ten below) This is another good weekend as domestic box office turns the corner on the holiday grosses – $125M total moviegoing, or +12% more than last year. Paramount‘s R-rated hit Halloween franchise came in an easy #1 through Sunday. Paranormal Activity 4 (3,412 theaters including 286 IMAX locations) scared up around $30M for the weekend, which included a big $15M Friday haul including $4.5M of Thursday night/Friday midnight shows. (*I use an asterisk because Paramount so far has failed to separate the Thursday late shows from the Friday midnights. So PA4 actually dipped below $30M.) But the take was down -38% for  Saturday. Overall PA4 grossed far less than Hollywood estimates, disappointing compared to PA2‘s hefty debut of $40.7M and PA3‘s even huger $52.6M. New pic only received a ”C’ CinemaScore which hurt word of mouth. But overseas was a different story: Paranormal Activity 4 opened day and date in 33 markets outside of the U.S. and grabbed $26.5M internationally through Sunday for a $56.5M worldwide cume. In fact, Paramount focused its marketing globall. In the weeks leading up to release, fans from the top 25 winning locations around the world saw the film first at pre-release screenings on October 16th through the “Want It” contest on Facebook. Of course, the U.S. Halloween market overall is more crowded this year than last. Audience makeup was 50%/50% male/female, 60% under age 25/40% age 25 and over.

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, PA4 was again produced by Jason Blum and Oren Peli. “Great results for a franchise that has stayed true to its roots and its microbudgeted approach!,” an exec gushed despite the lower grosses. That’s because what began as a $70,000 sleeper still costs only $5M now and the backend deals haven’t changed, I’m told. Overall, the three Paranormal Activity installments have earned over $576 million worldwide on a combined budget of a little over $8M. Yowza! By the way, this is Paramount’s first fictional live-action nationwide release since The Dictator in May. That’s because the studio pushed off this summer’s scheduled release of G.I. Joe 2 to 2013 in order to revamp the pic.

Related: Big Problems Behind G.I. Joe 2‘s Big Delay

Meanwhile QED International’s small budget Alex Cross (2,539 theaters) based on best-selling author James Patterson’s crime novel I Alex Cross and starring Tyler Perry also is opening lower than Hollywood estimates. It made $12M for the weekend with Summit Entertainment distributing in the U.S. and Entertainment One in Canada. Everyone was confident enough of a $20M weekend that QED, Patterson, and Perry have a sequel deal already coming together: Patterson’s crime novel Double Cross as a 2nd movie starring Perry as the famous Washington DC crimefighter/psychologist. But the critics have been harsh on helmer Rob Cohen and the film as a whole – only 12% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes (and 0% among top critics). Didn’t matter: audiences gave Alex Cross a ‘A’ CinemaScore which helped word of mouth go up +20% from Friday to Saturday. “The film over performed the national location average in markets that have historically been strong on previous Tyler films,” Summit said. The studio’s marketing campaign targeted both Perry’s and Patterson’s fan bases through a concentrated 3-week media campaign comprised of ads on network and cable television, radio, outdoor in key markets, and online.

Alex Cross is Perry’s first lead role that he didn’t produce or direct or write and his first turn in one of the juiciest roles for a black actor (following Morgan Freeman) – and unexpected for the star of the crossdressing Madea movies. QED International’s Bill Block put together the pic at a cost of only $25M (lowered to $23M with filming tax subsidies). He chased down the book rights from Patterson for under $1 million, then hired Marc Moss and Kerry Williamson to pen the screenplay with Patterson. Then Block and Patterson sought out Tyler’s WME agent Charles King. After meetings in Atlanta, QED signed Perry for $5M upfront. Amazingly, Perry didn’t want to write, direct or produce the movie. He didn’t even want to move the location to his home base in Georgia for all his creature comforts. And he had the leverage, too. Instead Perry wanted QED to run the project so he could focus solely on his acting. (Maybe next time Perry should direct, too.)

Meanwhile, Ben Affleck’s Oscar-buzzed Argo had a spectacular hold from its opening a week ago. “Friday night’s -14% hold is the best for a wide release R-rated film that I can recall,” a Warner Bros exec crowed. “Word of mouth has taken over the campaign. All good news as the awards season approaches.”

Here’s the Top Ten based on weekend estimates:

1. Paranormal Activity 4 (Paramount) NEW [3,412 Runs] R
Friday $15.0M, Saturday $9.3M, Weekend $30.0M

2. Argo (Warner Bros) Week 2 [3,247 Runs] R
Friday $5.0M (-14%), Saturday $7.3M, Weekend $16.7M, Cume $43.3M

3. Taken 2 (Fox) Week 3 [3,489 Runs] PG13
Friday $4.2M, Saturday $5.9M, Weekend $13.3M, Cume $106.0M

4. Hotel Transylvania (Sony) Week 4 [3,384 Runs] PG
Friday $3.6M, Saturday $5.8M, Weekend $13.2M, Cume $118.7M

4. Alex Cross (Summit/Lionsgate) NEW [2,539 Runs] PG13
Friday $4.0M, Saturday $4.8M, Weekend $12.0M

6. Sinister (Summit/Lionsgate) Week 2 [2,542 Runs] R
Friday $2.9M, Saturday $3.8M, Weekend $8.9M (-51%), Cume $31.8M

7. Here Comes The Boom (Sony) Week 2 [3,014 Runs] PG
Friday $2.5M, Saturday $3.7M, Weekend $8.5M (-27%), Cume $23.3M

8. Pitch Perfect (Universal) Week 4 [2,660 Runs] PG13
Friday $2.3M, Saturday $2.9M, Weekend $6.8M, Cume $45.6M

9. Frankenweenie (Disney) Week 3 [2,362 Runs] PG
Friday $1.1M, Saturday $1.8M, Weekend $4.3M, Cume $28.3M

10. Looper (FilmDistrict/Sony) Week 4 [2,223 Runs] R
Friday $1.2M, Saturday $1.8M, Weekend $4.1M, Cume $57.8M

For more estimates listed by title, see box office results here...

Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.

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