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Friday Top Ten: ‘Sinister’ Starts Strong, ‘Argo’ and ‘Seven Psychopaths’ Build Buzz

Friday Top Ten: 'Sinister' Starts Strong, 'Argo' and 'Seven Psychopaths' Build Buzz

So far this weekend, the wealth is spread around several diverse films and grosses are down slightly from last Friday –which was bolstered by the huge operning of "Taken 2." By Sunday the order of the top films of the weekend should change. And the ultimate success of the most anticipated release — Ben Affleck's "Argo" – -won't be really known until longer into its run.

Grosses are way up though from a year ago: $38 million for Friday to last year's $24 million for the top ten. After a dispiriting couple of months, the October revival surges on.

1. Sinister (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: C+; Metacritic score: 55

$7,450,000 in 2,527 theaters: PSA: $2,948,000; Cumulative: $2,948,000

With Thursday night shows pushing its gross, Lionsgate has yet another strong horror opener. While it will likely fall in rank for the full weekend (perhaps to third or even fourth), this already looks like a good investment for Lionsgate, which releases several horror films every year (this makes four for 2012). This was an acquisition made by partner Summit last year and just now, in prime pre-Halloween playtime, capitalized on a week with no other new scary movies. (It premiered in March at SXSW.)

This found-footage crime investigation film marks the first horror entry in Ethan Hawke's almost quarter-century career. Hawke tends to favor independent, off-beat, sometimes foreign films. His last full-weekend #1 film was "Training Day" in 2001.

For director Scott Derrickson, this is a return to the genre that first got him attention with the sleeper hit "The Exorcism of Emily Rose." He then made Fox's "The Day the Earth Stood Still" which managed a $233-million gross worldwide, then returned to his horror roots for this indie. Producer Jason Blum comes from the "Paranormal Activity" series, which rebooted the found-footage movement that remains a staple in the genre.

What comes next: With "Paranormal 4" and "Silent Hill Revelation" still to come before Halloween, this will fade quickly.

2. Taken 2 (20th Century-Fox) Week 2 – Last Friday: #1; Last Weekend: #1

$7,000,000 (-60%) in 3,706 theaters (+45): PSA: $1,889; Cumulative: $71,259,000

Welcome to the fall Oscar season! Last week, this French film outgrossed in one weekend what last year's French best picture did during its entire release. This weekend, "Taken 2"'s second outing is beating the opening of one of the leading candidates for this year.

Although still grossing well, the falloff indicates that this sequel will likely fall short of the $145 million the first entry grossed in the US/Canada. However, with a budget of only $45 million, and most of the world as well as additional grosses yet to come, this already will be one of the most profitable films on Fox' slate this year (along with producer Luc Besson).

What comes next: It lwill be star Liam Neeson's call if the series is to continue.

3. Argo (Warner Brothers) NEW – Cinemascore: A+; Metacritic score: 86

$5,930,000 in 3,232 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $1,835; Cumulative: $5,930,000

With the Cinemascore indicating that initial audience reacted as strongly as critics (the best reviews for any wide-release film for the year so far), this gross is not a bad start, but indicates that strong word of mouth will have to sustain Ben Affleck's third film as a director. The based-on-fact Iranian hostage crisis drama so far seems to be only drawing older viewers, who can create a solid base, but this is going to need more crossover appeal to reach its potential.

Considered a leading Oscar contender (although perception of audience reaction can play a role in its chances), this gross falls short of two comparable films, both of which had initial wider appeal. "The Social Network," with slightly better reviews, similar festival acclaim and high awards expectations, opened to $8 million its first day (ending up at $97 million). Affleck's "The Town" had an $8.3 million first day, getting to $92 million.

With a $44 million reported budget and likely sustained run (although this will not be clear until next weekend), this looks like a return to form (assuming solid international results) for Oscar-winning producer Graham King ("The Departed"), who also partnered with Affleck for "The Town." His recent travails have been well documented – his last four films were the expensive and underperforming "Hugo" and "Dark Shadows" as well as flops "The Rum Diary" and "The Land of Milk and Honey," though he also had "Rango" last year. Whatever happens, this film enhances the resumes of all its participants.

What comes next: The next three weeks (with Halloween dominating release patterns) give this a clear field to reach upscale and other audiences before other more adult-oriented studio films come along.

4. Hotel Transylvania (Sony) Week 3 – Last Friday: #2; Last Weekend: #2

$4,200,000 (-35%) in 3,375 theaters (+23): PSA: $1,244; Cumulative: $89,093,000

A strong hold for this thriving animated horror comedy. This has overperformed since the start, and is sustaining its strength as it continues.

What comes next: With Halloween still to come, this has a long way to go.

5. Here Comes the Boom (Sony) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic score: 41

$3,625,000 in 3,014 theaters: PSA: $1,203; Cumulative: $3,625,000

For star Kevin James and director Frank Coraci, this is a major disappointment. James' last seven live-action films had opening weekends of between $17 and $40 million. Other than his stumble with "Around the World in 80 Days," Coraci has had steady success, with four collaborations with Adam Sandler grossing $80 million or more.

It made sense to counterprogram a comedy this week, but the elements for this didn't lead to repeating earlier successes, at least initially. However, the A Cinemascore means a slight pick up the rest of the weekend is possible.

What comes next: This won't last much beyond two weeks unless interest picks up soon.

6. Pitch Perfect (Universal) Week 3 – Last Friday: #3; Last Weekend: #3

$3,000,000 (-39%) in 2,787 theaters (+17): PSA: $1,076; Cumulative: $29,748,000

Decent hold for this musical comedy as it continues to find a response with its intended more female audience.

What comes next: As a lower-budget film, it looks like Universal has maximized its appeal and is heading toward profit.

7. Looper (Sony) Week 3 – Last Friday: #4; Last Weekend: #4

$1,900,000 (-46%) in 2,605 theaters (-388): PSA: $729; Cumulative: $47,042,000

Though Rian Johnson's film has critics behind it and some fervent fans, it is falling steadily now can't sustain its impressive earlier performance.

What comes next: As a lower-budget film boasting significant early foreign performances, this remains a success for Sony.

8. Frankenweenie (Buena Vista) Week 2 – Last Friday: #5; Last Weekend: #5

$1,786,000 (-48%) in 3,005 (unchanged) theaters; PSA: $594; Cumulative: $16,807,000

Two much competition remains a problem for this Tim Burton 3-D animated film (particularly from "Hotel Transylvania") which is fading fast. It also followed "ParaNorman" as an animated horror entry. Timing was not on "Frankenweenie"'s side.

What comes next: This could have a hard time holding on in most theaters through Halloween.

9. Seven Psychopaths (CBS) NEW –  Metacritic score: 66

$1,360,000 in 1,480 theaters: PSA: $919; Cumulative: $1,360,000

A lower-budget wide release film (under $15 million) with a similar off-kilter appeal as director Martin McDonagh's "In Bruges" (which though a successful specialized film and better international performer ended up just under $8 million in US/Canada), CBS opened a bit more limited than is planned for its second week to a barely decent gross. But the point is to generate word of mouth, so with decent initial sampling this stands a good chance of repeating the appeal it showed when it won the Peoples' Choice award for favorite midnight film at the Toronto Film Festival.

What comes next: A close look at the full weekend to determine the extent of the expansion and increased marketing layout.

10. Atlas Shrugged: Part II (Atlas) NEW –  Metacritic score: 22

$692,000 in 1,012 theaters: PSA: $684; Cumulative: $692,000

A close lead over "Perks of Being a Wallflower" for 10th place for Friday, this might not make it for the full weekend. The first part of this Ayn Rand novel adaptation did just a little less on fewer than half as many theaters.

What comes next: DVD likely before too long.

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