The third installment in the film franchise made $54 million over the weekend, the biggest debut ever for a horror film.

Producers hoped the film would simply outperform its predecessors, including the sequel, which already held the record as highest-grossing debut of a horror flick. The first Paranormal Activity film was a low-budget sleeper hit, reportedly made for just $15,000, the Associated Press reports.

This time around, Paramount aimed higher, striking an older, more affluent demographic, helped along by decent reviews.

(Paramount distribution president Don) Harris believes this installment did so well because it's actually the best movie of the three. He noted that it appealed to an older crowd, with 47 percent over the age of 25 compared to 40 percent for "Paranormal Activity 2." Strong reviews also helped, he said, including a rave from Time magazine. And fundamentally, horror movies simply play better in a packed theater.

"Ultimately, it gets back to why there's still a theatrical business, why people still go to the movies," Harris said. "We want to laugh in a group, we want to be scared in a group, people like to cry in a group in the dark where nobody can see them crying. It's all the reason movie theaters exist and this genre has always been front and center."

It's also a good box office haul in a bad box office month. The Wall Street Journal reported that Paranormal Activity 3 beats out Jackass 3-D as the biggest box office draw ever in October.

Here's the projected Top 10 for the weekend, via the AP and Hollywood.com:

1. "Paranormal Activity 3," $54 million.

2. "Real Steel," $11.3 million.

3. "Footloose," $10.85 million.

4. "The Three Musketeers," $8.8 million.

5. "The Ides of March," $4.9 million.

6. "Dolphin Tale," $4.2 million.

7. "Moneyball," $4.05 million.

8. "Johnny English Reborn," $3.8 million. ($13.5 million international.)

9. "The Thing," $3.1 million.

10. "50/50," $2.8 million.