Box Office: ‘Paranormal Activity 3’s’ $26.2 million Friday could fuel biggest horror opening ever

Paramount Pictures may have had some serious concerns about the underwhelming debut of their remake of “Footloose” last weekend, but all those frowns turned upside down after the grosses for “Paranormal Activity 3” started coming in on Friday.

The third installment in the originally independent horror franchise pulled in a stunning $26.2 million including $8 million in midnight shows yesterday. Depending on the expected “horror” drop Friday to Saturday, “PA3” could gross between $45-50 million for the weekend. That would make it arguably the largest opening ever for a horror film behind “Paranormal Activity 2’s” $40.6 million last year. Reportedly budgeted at just $5 million, “PA3” also looks like it will be the rare threequel to make more money than its predecessor. The first “Paranormal Activity” was an unexpected word of mouth wonder expanding from limited to gradual wide release while eventually ending up with a jaw-dropping $107 million domestic. “Paranormal Activity 2” arrived a year later with a $40 million debut and $84 million and $177 million globally. “PA3” looks like it will easily surpass those totals.

In regards to “Footloose,” the reboot stayed in the second slot on Friday with another $3.6 million. The Craig Brewer directed dance-drama now has $23.4 million in just eight days. Paramount is clearly hoping word of mouth will continue to generate interest in Middle America where the morality tale has played the best.

“Real Steel” keeps chugging along in third with another $3.1 million and $59 million to date. The expensive family flick should get a Saturday matinee bump and surpass “Footloose” for the second spot by Sunday (just like last weekend).

Fourth place featured the debut of a new incarnation of “The Three Musketeers.” The Paul W.S. Anderson extravaganza could only muster $2.9 million in 3,000 theaters Friday including many with inflated 3-D ticket prices. Summit Entertainment didn’t screen the picture for critics before opening, but can’t be thrilled with just a $8-10 million opening weekend.

“The Ides of March” continues its “Michael Clayton” like minimal drops in fifth with another $1.5 million and $25.8 million so far. The George Clooney Oscar player has played well to adult audiences and could hit $30 million by Sunday.

Debuting outside of the top five was “Johnny English Reborn” with a paltry $1.1 million debut. Universal Pictures won’t care much because the Rowan Atkinson sequel to “Johnny English” has already made $85 million outside the U.S. and should easily pass the $160 million mark worldwide. Look for final weekend estimates Sunday on HitFix.