THE "LITTLE FILM THAT COULD" DID

In an outcome that appears about as paranormal as anything that Hollywood has ever produced, Paramount's $15,000 film Paranormal Activity rose to the top of the weekend box office, taking in $22 million and easily defeating Lionsgate's champion fright franchise Saw, which in its sixth iteration took in just $14.8 million. Moreover, the victory came after four weeks of limited release. And although it doubled the number of screens over the weekend to about 1,900, they still represented fewer than two-thirds of the some 3,000 theaters that screened Saw VI. Some box-office prognosticators had forecast that the Lionsgate movie would earn twice what it actually did. A year ago, Saw V opened with $30.1 million. Indeed, the overall box office experienced a steep decline, down nearly 10 percent from a year ago as other newcomers flopped. Summit Entertainment's animated Astro Boy opened with just $7 million, putting it in sixth place, while Universal's Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant debuted in eighth place with only $6.3 million. Fox Searchlight's Amelia, the biopic about famed aviatrix Amelia Earhart starring Hilary Swank in the title role, failed to make the top ten, coming in at No. 11 with $4 million.

The top ten films for the weekend, according to studio estimates compiled by Box Office Mojo:

1. Paranormal Activity, $22 million; 2. Saw VI, $14.8 million; 3. Where the Wild Things Are, $14.4 million; 4. Law Abiding Citizen, $12.7 million; 5. Couples Retreat, $11.1 million; 6. Astro Boy, $7 million; 7. The Stepfather, $6.5 million; 8. Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, $6.3 million; 9. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, $5.6 million; 10. Zombieland, $4.3 million.

MOVIE REVIEWS: SAW VI

If Saw VI didn't meet expectations at the box office, the reason may have been that word got around that the franchise wasn't what it used to be. That seems to have been the conclusion of critics who saw it with regular audiences over the weekend. (It wasn't screened for them in advance.) As Mike Hale observed in the New York Times: "In VI one test involves dodging hot steam. That's quite a comedown from the good old days of being drowned in liquefied hog carcasses or having to remove your own foot with a hacksaw." Robert Abele in the Los Angeles Times suggested that the usual criticism of Saw movies apply to this one, too: "terrible acting, zero suspense, laughable logic and the promise of another one next year." But Jason Anderson in the Toronto Star concluded that the movie is actually, in his words, "a cut above" the usual Saw sequel, particularly because of its socially aware attack on health insurers. "Then again," he writes, "that's not such a great achievement considering the mostly dire quality of" previous Saw movies.

UP STAYS UP OVERSEAS FOR FIFTH WEEK

Disney/Pixar's Up showed that it still holds enough helium to keep it aloft overseas. The computer-animated 3D feature held the No. 1 position abroad for the fifth week (out of six) with a total of $19 million, to bring its international total to $324.2 million and its worldwide gross to $617 million. Animated fare dominated the foreign box office, with Disney's G-Force coming in at No. 2 with $8 million and Sony's Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs next in line with $7 million. After opening the London Film Festival, 20th Century Fox's Fantastic Mr. Fox debuted in the U.K. with $2.6 million.

JACKSON DOCUMENTARY TO BE "WALL-TO-WALL MUSIC," SAYS DIRECTOR

The director of the Michael Jackson concert documentary This Is It! has disclosed that it will feature "wall-to-wall music," but he did not indicate how much of that music will feature Jackson himself. In an interview with USA Today, Kenny Ortega, the choreographer who was staging Jackson's comeback concert production at the time of his death, said that "nowhere near the 80 hours [of footage that was shot during Jackson's rehearsals] did we have Michael in rehearsal. However, we had enough to be able to cut together a pretty big portion of what Michael was planning for the tour." The film, which is due to open on Wednesday, said Ortega, will show "a master of his craft, a great genius in his final theatrical work and creative process." At the same time, he said, "It's unguarded, and it's raw, and it's real and it's truthful, and it's not always pretty, and he's not always lit, you know. We weren't really overly protective." Meanwhile, Reuters on Sunday quoted one box-office analyst as predicting that the movie could earn $260 million domestically and $400 million internationally over its two-week run. It also said that Columbia may extend its run if ticket demand is high. And, in a related development, Daily Variety reported that Ortega has pulled out as director of the remake of the 1984 musical Footloose.

DIRECTOR PAUL HAGGIS ANGRILY QUITS SCIENTOLOGY AFTER 35 YEARS

Oscar-winning director Paul Haggis (Crash), one of Scientology's most prominent Hollywood members, has resigned from the organization, accusing it of deceit and bigotry. In an open letter to Scientology national spokesman Tommy Davis, Haggis, a 35-year member of the group, particularly objects to the national leadership's failure to address the San Diego branch's announced support of California's anti-gay marriage Proposition 8 ballot initiative last year. He accuses Davis of retreating on his promise that "heads would roll" as a result of the San Diegans action. "The church's refusal to denounce the actions of these bigots, hypocrites and homophobes is cowardly. I can think of no other word. Silence is consent, Tommy. I refuse to consent." Haggis further denounces Davis for allegedly using information gleaned from defector Amy Scobee's "audit" session to smear her publicly as an "adulteress." He writes: "She ran the entire celebrity center network, [in Hollywood] and was a loyal senior executive of the church for what, 20 years? You want to rebut her accusations, do it, and do it in the strongest terms possible -- but that kind of character assassination is unconscionable." He adds: "I am now painfully aware that you might see this an attack and just as easily use things I have confessed over the years to smear my name. Well, luckily I have never held myself up to be anyone's role model."

Cinemark Movie Club