What Fall Movies Had the Biggest Opening Weekends?

The Biggest Movie Openings of the Fall Season

Fall is always the quirkiest movie season. It's sandwiched in between the ultra-hot summer blockbuster season and the holiday season, which is filled with films vying for awards and the blockbusters released around Christmas. Because of that, studios often release movies in the Fall months that don't fit into their schedules in either season.

It's also a season for some movies that studios might feel have limited box office success—with kids back in school and sports like football and baseball running strong, Americans have less free time to go to the movies than they do during the summer and the holidays. Still, a handful of movies still have had great success in the Fall.

These are the top 10 biggest opening weekends for Fall movies: 

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High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008) - $42.0 million

High School Musical 3
Walt Disney Pictures

For teenagers of the late 2000s, what better way to kick off the 2008-2009 school year than by seeing Disney's High School Musical 3? Unlike the previous two entries which were TV movies, High School Musical 3 was theatrically released. The gamble paid off because the movie—starring Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, and Ashley Tisdale—broke the record for the biggest-ever opening for a movie musical.

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Hotel Transylvania (2012) - $42.5 million

Hotel Transylvania
Sony Pictures

Releasing an animated kids' film during September might seem like a tough sell—after all, most kids are in school—but this Adam Sandler-starring monster mash became a big hit when it was released in September. At the time of its release, it was the largest September opening weekend in history. It also played well in October because of its Halloween theme, making Hotel Transylvania an even bigger hit than Sony predicted.

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Shark Tale (2004) - $47.6 million

Shark Tale
DreamWorks Animation

Many moviegoers thought of Shark Tale as DreamWorks Animation's attempt to make its own Finding Nemo, but this animated film starring Will Smith, Robert De Niro, Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie and—in a rare acting role—Martin Scorsese had little to do with Finding Nemo besides being about fish. Regardless, Shark Tale was a success at the box office and is another example of a kids' movie doing well at the box office despite school being in session.

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Scary Movie 3 (2003) - $48.1 million

Scary Movie 3
Dimension Films

The first two movies in the Scary Movie horror parody franchise were released in July, but the third one was released in late October to coincide with Halloween. It was ultimately the second most successful film in the franchise, and it had the biggest opening weekend of any movie released in October or the Fall at the time of its release—a record that still stands if adjusting for inflation. Not bad for the third film in a parody series.

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Hotel Transylvania 2 (2015) - $48.5 million

Hotel Transylvania 2
Sony Pictures

Since Sony had so much success with releasing Hotel Transylvania in late September, the studio did the same with the sequel to even greater success. Not only did Hotel Transylvania 2 have a bigger opening weekend than its predecessor, it made even more money at the domestic and international box office. Another sequel is planned to come out the very same weekend in 2018—after all, why change a winning game plan?

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Taken 2 (2012) - $49.5 million

Taken 2
20th Century Fox

The first Taken film was released in January 2009 in the United States -- typically a bad month for movies. However, in part because of limited competition, the Liam Neeson thriller became a surprise hit. The sequel opened in the United States in early October 2012, and it doubled the opening weekend of the original film and made much more at the worldwide box office. No wonder a third film followed.

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Jackass 3-D (2010) - $50.4 million

Jackass 3-D
Paramount Pictures

All four Jackass movies (including the spinoff Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa) were released in the Fall, but Jackass 3-D—buoyed by its 3-D gimmick—had by far the largest opening weekend of the series. The 3-D aspect was a huge selling point because the effects wouldn't translate as well to home viewing, so seeing it in theaters was a must for fans of Steve-O and Johnny Knoxville. Jackass 3-D is the most successful of the series, and should there ever be another entry you can bet it will be released in the Fall (and probably again in 3-D).

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Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) - $52.6 million

Paranormal Activity 3
Paramount Pictures

Five of the six Paranormal Activity films have opened in the Fall, and all had strong opening weekends—even the original, which only opened in 12 theaters (obviously, more followed!) By the third movie the ultra-low budget horror franchise was raking in the annual Halloween-season box office, and the $52.6 million opening of Paranormal Activity 3 amounted to ten times the production budget of the movie. Though the franchise no longer packs theaters like it used to, Paramount can still claim to have the highest-ever box office opening weekend for a horror film with Paranormal Activity 3.

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The Martian (2015) - $54.3 million

The Martian
20th Century Fox

Saving Matt Damon is apparently a formula for box office success. Though The Martian —in which Damon plays an astronaut who was stranded on Mars—was initially released in October to get a jump start on the awards season, the strategic release date ended up helping the film tremendously at the box office. With little competition and great reviews, The Martian had a huge opening weekend and eventually grossed over $600 million worldwide -- awesome numbers for any movie, let alone one released in the Fall.

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Gravity (2013) - $55.8 million

Warner Bros. Pictures

There must be something about space thrillers and October, because Gravity—released two years before The Martian—set the record for highest Fall box office opening. The film, starring Sandra Bullock as a rookie astronaut who is stranded in space, was a huge box office success and won seven Academy Awards, including Best Director for Alfonso Cuarón, Mexico's most successful filmmaker. Though the similarly-themed The Martian crept closest to the box office record set by Gravity (missing it by just $1.5 million), it wasn't able to knock it from the top spot.