‘Argo’ Is Top Weekend Film With $12.1 Million in Receipts

“Argo,” Ben Affleck’s thriller about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis, jumped to first place in its third weekend in U.S. and Canadian theaters, taking in $12.1 million for Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s Warner Bros.

“Cloud Atlas,” also from Warner Bros., was second, collecting $9.6 million in its opening weekend, researcher Hollywood.com Box-Office said today in an e-mailed statement.

“Argo,” considered a probable Oscar nominee, benefited from word-of-mouth recommendations and a weak slate of new pictures entering theaters. Affleck produced and directed the film and plays the lead character. The movie is based on the true story of a mission by the CIA and Canadian diplomats to sneak six Americans out of Iran after the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979.

“First, people are loving the film and recommending it to their friends, and second, the four new movies opening this weekend mostly crashed and burned,” Gitesh Pandya, editor of BoxOfficeGuru.com in New York, said in a telephone interview. While it will probably lose the No. 1 spot to new openings starting next weekend, the film is on track to gross more than $100 million, driven in part by “Oscar buzz,” he said.

“Argo” is a five-to-one favorite to win the Academy Award for best picture, according to GoldDerby.com, a website that compiles forecasts by journalists who cover the Oscars. Affleck also is favored to win the best director award, according to the website. The film has generated $60.5 million in ticket sales since opening on Oct. 12.

‘Cloud Atlas’

“Cloud Atlas,” a series of interwoven stories that play out over several centuries, is based on the novel by U.K. author David Mitchell. The film stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant. It was directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski, makers of the “Matrix” films, and by Tom Tykwer.

“It’s a disappointing opening, but it was a very tough movie to sell in the first place,” Pandya said, citing the multiple storylines that take place across 500 years. “It’s very difficult for marketers to get the message across as to what the story is because it is very complex.”

Among returning films, Sony Corp. (6758)’s “Hotel Transylvania” was third with receipts of $9.4 million. The animated film features the voice of Adam Sandler as Dracula, who invites famous monsters to celebrate his daughter’s birthday.

“Paranormal Activity 4,” the latest installment in Paramount Pictures’ low-cost horror series, fell to fourth from first place with sales of $8.5 million.

‘Silent Hill’

Like its predecessors, “Paranormal Activity 4” is filmed in the “found-footage” style, as characters set up cameras to record strange happenings when no one is around. In this edition, a neighborhood becomes the setting for terrifying events after a woman and a mysterious child move in.

The debut film “Silent Hill: Revelation 3D,” from Open Road Films, was fifth with $8 million. Adelaide Clemens stars as a young woman who is drawn into a demonic world with little hope of escape. Sean Bean also is featured in the film.

“Taken 2,” from Fox, was sixth with $7.7 million. The film is a sequel to the 2009 Liam Neeson action film.

“Fun Size,” from Viacom Inc. (VIAB)’s Paramount Pictures, opened in 10th place with sales of $4.1 million. The comedy follows a teen-age girl assigned to keep track of her little brother on Halloween night. The movie features Chelsea Handler, Victoria Justice and Johnny Knoxville.

Weekend revenue for the top 12 films fell 13 percent to $81.2 million from the year-earlier period, Hollywood.com said. Domestic film sales this year have risen 3.8 percent to $8.7 billion, with attendance up 2.6 percent.

Hurricane Sandy may have caused sales to decline on the East Coast in a period that’s already weak before holiday releases that begin the first weekend of November, Pandya said.

The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales from Oct. 26 to Oct. 28.

                       Rev.            Avg./   Pct.   Total
Movie                 (mln)  Theaters  Theater Chg.   (mln)  Wks
===============================================================
 1 ARGO               $12.1    2,855   $4,233  -27    $60.5    3
 2 CLOUD ATLAS          9.6    2,008    4,787   --      9.6    1
 3 HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA   9.4    3,276    2,883  -27    130.4    5
 4 PARANORMAL 4         8.5    3,412    2,494  -71     42.5    2
 5 SILENT HILL          8.0    2,933    2,735   --      8.0    1
 6 TAKEN 2              7.7    2,995    2,577  -42    117.1    4
 7 HERE COMES THE BOOM  5.2    2,491    2,092  -38     30.3    3
 8 ALEX CROSS           5.1    2,541    2,020  -55     19.5    2
 9 SINISTER             5.0    2,347    2,129  -43     39.4    3
10 FUN SIZE             4.1    3,014    1,361   --      4.1    1
11 PITCH PERFECT        3.9    1,999    1,975  -42     51.3    5
12 FRANKENWEENIE        2.5    1,738    1,413  -43     31.8    4


Top 12 Films Grosses

   This Week     Year Ago      Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
     $81.2         $93.6       -13


Year-to-date Revenue

     2012          2011
      YTD           YTD        Pct.
     (mln)         (mln)       Chg.
===================================
    $8,715        $8,399      +3.8

Year-to-date Attendance:     +2.6%

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael White in Los Angeles at mwhite8@bloomberg.net; Sapna Maheshwari in New York at sapnam@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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