The most surprising story of the weekend was not the record-breaking box office of ‘Paranormal Activity 3,’ nor the theory that the horror prequel-sequel is a “game-changer” because it was more successful than its predecessor. (As Deadline’s Nikki Finke seemed to forget in her ‘Parnormal Activity 3’ analysis, ‘Jackass 3D, ‘Scary Movie 3’ and ‘Austin Powers 3′ are third franchise films that exceeded the opening grosses of those series’ second entries.) What was surprising? That ‘Parnormal Activity 3’ earned a mere “C+” rating from the mostly unreliable-but-not-totally-useless Cinemascore. Translation: you really didn’t love this one! Which raises the question: why not?

As evidenced by ‘Drive,’ poor Cinemascore ratings usually signify some kind of marketing tomfoolery; audiences are expecting one thing, they get another, and then react angrily to the bait-and-switch during exit polling. When ‘Drive’ earned a “C-” grade from Cinemascore, it was understandable (though not understandable enough to warrant a lawsuit): the film was an exercise in genre artsploitation instead of the raucous action audiences might have expected. In the case of ‘Parnormal Activity 3,’ however, the low score is surprising. After all, the trailers and marketing showed a film that was similar in tone and style to the previous two, and audiences were fine with the ‘PA’ mythology before. Even the somewhat-derided second film rated as a “B” on Cinemascore; was ‘Parnormal Activity 3’ that much worse? Are audiences actually over this series despite the record-setting opening weekend numbers?

Paramount certainly hopes not. The studio is reportedly already contemplating a fourth film. “I can’t imagine that we wouldn’t make a number four, and I imagine [Paramount Film Group president] Adam Goodman this morning is thinking about the challenge,” Paramount head of domestic distribution Don Harris told TheWrap on Sunday. “I’m sure he’s thinking, ‘Now what do I do?'” Well, make another one. The combined budget for the three ‘Paranormal Activity’ films is just over $ 8 million total. That’s without marketing costs, but still: with almost $ 450 million in worldwide grosses these films are basically a license to print money. As long as the audiences are showing up in some capacity — even if the returns diminish for entry four and beyond — the film’s make financial sense. Of course, whether future ‘Paranormal Activity’ sequels make sense for your pocketbook remains to be seen.

The floor is yours, dear Moviefone readers: did you enjoy ‘Paranormal Activity 3’ and would you pay for another one?

[Photo: Paramount]

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