Ben Affleck's Argo rose to No. 1 in its third weekend of play at the domestic box office as four new films -- including big-budget epic Cloud Atlas -- turned in dismal performances.
Argo grossed $12.4 million for a dazzling North American total of $60.8 million. The film, from Warner Bros., only dropped 25 percent and is the first movie since The Blind Side to come in No. 1 for the first time in its third weekend.
There was more bad news for Cloud Atlas, starring Tom Hanks and Halle Berry. It was also beat by holdover Hotel Transylvania, which narrowly claimed the No. 2 spot with $9.5 milllion in its fifth weekend for a domestic total of $130.4 million (the best gross on record for a Sony Pictures Animation title).
The $100 million Cloud Atlas came in No. 3 with $9.4 million, notably less than the $12 million to $15 million that Warners was hoping for. The ambitious film, hurt by a C+ CinemaScore and mixed reviews, will need to make a strong showing internationally.
Cloud Atlas was independently financed, with Warners picking up domestic distribution rights. The dreamy epic, based on the 2004 novel by David Mitchell, was directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tywker.
New Halloween horror pic Silent Hill: Revelation 3D was also beat by holdovers; in this case Paranormal Activity 4, which placed No. 4 in its second weekend with $8.7 million for a 10-day domestic total of $42.6 million.
Revelation opened to $8 million, tying with holdover Taken 2 for No. 5.
Matters were even worse for Victoria Justice teen comedy Fun Size and Gerard Butler surfing drama Chasing Mavericks, the weekend's two other new films. Both opened outside the top 10, as well as landing high on the list of all-time worst studio openings.
Paramount and Nickelodeon's Fun Size, the first feature directed by television showrunner Josh Schwartz, placed No. 11 with $4.1 million.
Fox and Walden Media's Chasing Mavericks, starring Gerard Butler as legendary surfer Jay Moriarty, came in No. 13 with $2.2 million.
Minimizing the damage, Fun Size ($14 million), Chasing Mavericks ($20 million) and Revelation ($20 million) were modestly budgeted.
Moviegoing was down 12 percent from a year ago, with some markets in the Southeast impacted by Hurricane Sandy. However, a bigger factor across the country were early Halloween festivities, box office observers say. But even that doesn't explain away the poor showing by new titles.