Horrors! Insidious 2 Conjures Up a Record-Breaking Debut

The director and star of 'The Conjuring' enter another haunted house and hit pay dirt, while Robert De Niro finds modest 'Family' value

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Moviegoers must be superstitious. Or perhaps they simply respond to a clever release-date ploy and enjoy screaming in a theater with other like-lunged fans. Either way, Insidious Chapter 2, sequel to the 2011 haunted-house thriller, scared up $20 million on its opening day, Fri. the 13th (including previews the night before), and went on to win the weekend at North American theaters with $41.05 million, according to preliminary studio estimates.

More than tripling the $13.3-million first weekend figure for the original film, the PG-13 sequel snagged the top opening gross for a live-action movie released in Sep., far outstripping the $30.1 million earned by The Exorcism of Emily Rose in 2005 — though the Adam Sandler animated feature Hotel Transylvania took in $42.5 million last year.

(READ: Corliss’s wrap up of the summer box office)  

The weekend means more black ink for producer Jason Blum, whose Blumhouse finances such minibudgeted efforts as the Paranormal Activity series and the big, cheap summer thriller, The Purge ($34.1 million opening). And it marks continued success for director James Wan and male lead Patrick Wilson, whose The Conjuring opened to $41.9 million eight weeks ago — still the year’s burliest opening for a horror picture. Wan and Insidious writer Leigh Whannel, who met at film school in Australia, also dreamed up the Saw franchise, plus two movies that didn’t take, from 2007: Dead Silence (a ventriloquist’s evil dummy) and Death Sentence (Kevin Bacon assuming Charles Bronson’s vengeful-father role in the Death Wish mold). Wan now moves way up in budget to direct Fast & Furious 7.

(READ: How Saw Came and Conquered)

Made for a penurious $5 million, Chapter 2 lured the young audience — 62% were under the age of 25 — and pulled a CinemaScore of B-plus, quite a decent grade for its genre. If the $41-million number holds when final figures are issued Mon., this will be the biggest horror film ever to open on Fri. the 13th, narrowly defeating the $40.6 million earned in Feb. 2009 by the reboot of… Friday the 13th! That scary date comes again in Dec.; there’ll be just one on next year’s calendar (Jun.), but three in 2015: Feb., Mar. and Nov. So studios may already be fighting to secure those Fri. the 13ths for horror movies as yet undreamed of.

While the young flocked to Insidious 2, a few of their grandparents left their Perfect Pollys at home and took in The Family, starring Robert De Niro (70), Michelle Pfeiffer (55) and Tommy Lee Jones (66) — a total of 191 years among the three leads. Luc Besson’s R-rated crime comedy, budgeted at $30 million, earned an O.K. $14.5 million in its debut weekend. Its audience, which registered an amazingly 83% older than 25, gave the movie a substandard C grade on CinemaScore.

(READ: When De Niro Was Da Man — Memories of Raging Bull

Two August hits held well, with Lee Daniels’ The Butler reaching $100 million in its fifth week, and We’re the Millers still the dope in its sixth. Millers is one of four top-10 films that opened the week of Aug. 5-7, the others being Planes, Elysium and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters. That speaks less to the deathless quality of these pictures than to the dearth of appeal in more recent product. The boy-band doc One Direction: This Is Us tried hyping its revenue by adding 20 mins. of new footage to a movie released just two weekends ago, but the teen girls who paid to see their idols over Labor Day were wearing their Fool-Me-Once signs, and the movie dropped another 41%.

Here are the Sunday estimates of this weekend’s top-grossing pictures in North American theaters, as reported by Box Office Mojo:

1. Insidious Chapter 2, $41.05 million, first weekend
2. The Family, $14.5 million, first weekend
3. Riddick, $7 million; $31.3 million, second week
4. Lee Daniels’ The Butler, $5.6 million; $100 million, fifth week
5. We’re the Millers, $5.4 million; $131.6 million, sixth week
6. Instructions Not Included, $4.25 million; $26.6 million, third week
7. Planes, $3 million; $83 million, sixth week
8. One Direction: This Is Us, $2.4 million; $26.9 million, third week
9. Elysium, $2.05 million; $88.4 million, sixth week
10. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, $1.8 million; $62 million, sixth week