If Hollywood sticks with this strategy, Halloween may have to move to January.
On the heels of the shocking #1 success of small-budget horror flicks like "The Devil Inside" and "Texas Chainsaw 3D," "Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones" looks to get in on the January horror action over the first weekend of 2014.
The "Texas Chainsaw" franchise reboot knocked "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" from the top spot during the same weekend last year, with "Django Unchained" sandwiched between them at #2. This weekend looks to unfold with surprising similarity, with industry analysts predicting a win for "Paranormal" and a bump down to #3 for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." Disney Animation's runaway family-friendly hit "Frozen" will sit at #2.
In January, 2012, found-footage flick "The Devil Inside" opened at #1 with $33.7 million. The first "Paranormal Activity" spinoff isn't likely to make Paramount the same sort of opening weekend cash. It's likely to be more in line with the $21.7 million earned by "Texas Chainsaw 3D," with estimates ranging between $23 million and $26 million.
The first "Paranormal Activity" did surprisingly well with film critics for a supernatural horror movie, though each sequel has earned a "rotten" score on Rotten Tomatoes. "Paranormal Activity 4," released in October 2012, was the worst-received of the series — both critically and commercially.
A January release date isn't the only product of careful research and strategizing on the part of the studio behind "The Marked Ones." Paramount made note of the huge Latino audience for the "Paranormal Activity" movies, which have grossed more than $350 million at the domestic box office with a collective production price tag of less than $20 million. "The Marked Ones" retains the found-footage vibe and a few previously seen characters, but centers on a new, mostly Latino cast with many scenes taking place out and about in a Hispanic Southern California neighborhood.
Peter Jackson's second entry in his "Lord of the Rings" prequel trilogy has already amassed more than $633 million around the world. Last week, "Frozen" saw a dramatic increase more than a month after its release, trailing behind only the two biggest movies of all time ("Avatar," "Titanic") with the third biggest fifth weekend ever. The Disney hit beat three-time box-office champ "The Desolation of Smaug" on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, according to box-office estimates.
The first weekend of 2014 should see "Frozen" collect another $20 million or so, with "Smaug" trailing behind in the high teens. The rest of the top five will see a battle between "Anchorman 2: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" and awards-season contenders "American Hustle" and "The Wolf of Wall Street." "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" is likely to keep hanging around in the top 10, while Keanu Reeves' big-budget bomb, "47 Ronin," will all but disappear.