Is it still a staycation if you go out? Audiences flocked to see the island paradise getaway Couples Retreat, presumably because no one can afford their own trip; the comedy was the top choice for moviegoers over Columbus Day weekend, grossing an estimated $35.3 million. Further down the chart, the bigger story occurred in fifth place. In just its second limited release weekend, the lo-fi horror film Paranormal Activity exploded, grossing $7 million from just 160 theaters. Yowser! As we do each Monday, here’s a breakdown of the top five at the box office.
1. Couples Retreat: $35.3 million ($35.3 million total)
Since Couples Retreat was sold as a “Vince Vaughn comedy”—after all, despite the ensemble cast of famous faces, only Mr. Vaughn gets billing above the title—its box office success can firmly go on his ledger. And what a ledger! Before Retreat, his last three relationship comedies (Four Christmases, The Break Up and Wedding Crashers) have all opened north of $30 million and have grossed no less than $118 million. By going mainstream, Mr. Vaughn has turned himself into the A-list star everyone thought he would be after Swingers debuted thirteen years ago (!). Double Down Trent would be proud.
2. Zombieland: $15 million ($47.8 million total)
Blessed with what we can now assume was strong word of mouth, Zombieland dipped a mere 39 percent over the weekend, pushing its total near $50 million and all but ensuring that some sort of sequel gets greenlit. Somewhere, Michael Cera is nervously chewing on the strings of his hoodie, wondering how Jesse Eisenberg was able to steal his career.
3. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: $12 million ($96.2 million total)
Speaking of low depreciation rates! Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs yet again held firm, spending its fourth week in the top-three. At $96.2 million, the 3-D animated smash will cross into triple digits sometime this week. Even if Where the Wild Things Are takes a big chunk of its audience next week, the Sony film will be remembered as one of the nicer surprises of 2009.
4. Toy Story / Toy Story 2: 3-D Double Feature: $7.6 million ($22.6 million total)
For those of you who thought there was no way to draw blood from a stone, say hello to the Toy Story 3-D Double Feature! Dropping a scant 38 percent, the Disney/Pixar re-release proves unequivocally that most people don’t know how to use their DVD players.
5. Paranormal Activity: $7 million ($8.2 million total)
Holy Blair Witch Project? Potentially. The numbers on Paranormal Activity are, frankly, astounding. The Paramount film averaged over $44,000 per theater; by contrast, sixth place finisher, Surrogates—seriously who is still seeing that thing?—averaged just above $1,300 per site. It also secured the record for highest grossing weekend ever from less than 200 theaters, surpassing Platoon. Whether or not Paranormal Activity has the goods to be the next Blair Witch remains to be seen, but there is an audience here and we expect Paramount will take advantage of it in the coming weeks.