LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - (Reuters) - Moviegoers around the world got into the Halloween spirit early during the weekend, snapping up an estimated $63.5 million worth of tickets for the haunted-house sequel "Paranormal Activity 2," distributor Paramount Pictures said on Sunday.
The film opened at No. 1 in the United States and Canada with a better-than-expected $41.5 million during its first three days, and was also the top choice in Britain, Australia, Mexico and Russia, the Viacom Inc-owned studio said. In all, it earned $22 million from 21 foreign markets.
With a production cost of just $3 million, the movie should generate good profits for Paramount. Its 2009 predecessor cost about $15,000 to make, and ended up with $107 million in North America, driven almost exclusively by word-of-mouth in the deliberate absence of a major marketing campaign.
The events in the new film predate those of the first one, and only actress Katie Featherston returns. But the formula remains the same: things go bump in the night and the action is captured by surveillance cameras.
Industry pundits had forecast a North American opening in the $20 million range. Don Harris, Paramount's executive VP for distribution, said he had given the film an outside chance of cracking $30 million.
He said the aim of the new film was to retain the fans of the proudly indie original while expanding its mainstream appeal. Exit data showed women accounted for 54 percent of the audience, up from 49 percent last time. The percentage of moviegoers aged under 25 stayed the same at 61 percent. Critics liked the first one considerably more.
North American sales comparisons with the first film are difficult since it played in limited release before rising to No. 1 with a $21 million haul in its fifth weekend.
The horror should continue next weekend, when "Saw 3D," the seventh annual entry in the Halloween-timed torture franchise opens via Lions Gate Entertainment Corp's Lionsgate.
Paramount claimed the top two films in North America, as overperformer "Jackass 3D" slipped to No. 2 with $21.6 million. The two-week haul for the third entry in the prankster franchise rose to $87.1 million, exceeding the lifetime totals of its two predecessors.
Also new to the top 10 was Clint Eastwood's latest directing effort "Hereafter," which came in at No. 4 with a modest $12 million. Matt Damon stars in Warner Bros' $50 million supernatural thriller, which garnered mixed reviews.
Patrons also seemed underwhelmed, giving the movie a weak C-plus rating in exit surveys conducted by tracking firm CinemaScore. "Paranormal 2," by contrast, got a B rating.
"We're in the marathon business with (Eastwood), not the sprint," said Dan Fellman, president of domestic distribution at the Time Warner Inc unit. "It's always about week three or four."
Moviegoers aged over 30 accounted for 80 percent of the audience, while the female component was 58 percent.
Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Will Dunham