Despite being a horrible piece of shit that virtually no one likes—it’s currently enjoying a 24 on Metacritic and a 13% Tomatometer score—Couples Retreat dominated the weekend box office, earning more than double the second-place finisher with $35.3 million. For whatever reason—maybe the loaded cast, maybe the uncertain early fall season, maybe Ralphie in the director’s chair—the other studios decided to give the film such a wide berth that nothing opened against it. But really, the big story this weekend was the viral-powered resurgence of Paranormal Activity, the $11,000 Blair Witch-like phenomenon that has cleverly exploited social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to astonishing returns. The film managed a $7 million weekend (good enough for fifth place) on just 160 screens, with a per-screen-average of $44,000. It’s already grossed 752 times its original budget and looks to dominate as it rolls out to multiplexes around the country.
In limited release, the big winner was An Education, a fine drama starring Carey Mulligan as a precocious teenager whose relationship with a gentleman (Peter Sarsgaard) roughly twice her age is exciting, illuminating, and more than a little treacherous. Mulligan has been the (deserved) subject of Oscar talk, and the film’s $40,500 per-screen-average on opening weekend should bolster her chances considerably. Not so much the soccer bio The Damned United, the fourth pairing of writer Peter Morgan and Michael Sheen, who previously teamed up on The Deal, The Queen, and Frost/Nixon. Despite mostly respectful reviews, the film opened with a weak $6100 per-screen-average. But The Damned United looked like Transformers 2 compared to the anemic motocross drama Free Style, which earned a mere $406 per screen, which was barely enough to pay the hourly rate of the pimply-faced kid working concessions.
For more detailed numbers, visit Box Office Mojo.