I don’t really want to see CLOUD ATLAS, but I think I will go Monday night anyway.

Box office report: ‘Argo’ claims No. 1 with $12.4 million; ‘Skyfall’ scores $77.7 million overseas

Ben Affleck’s C.I.A. thriller Argo is having quite the box office run.

After debuting at number two with $19.5 million, Warner Bros.’ Oscar contender dropped by just 16 percent last weekend to $16.4 million. This weekend, the film notched yet another impressive achievement: it climbed to number one with an estimated $12.4 million (a 25 percent drop) in its third frame, becoming the first film since True Grit to hop to first place in its third weekend.

Argo, which cost $45 million to make, has now earned $60.8 million total, and thanks to terrific word-of-mouth (the film earned an “A+” CinemaScore grade) and early awards buzz, Argo is eyeing a $100 million finish. Though it is running a tad behind Affleck’s last directorial effort, The Town, which had earned $64.1 million at the same point in its run en route to a $92.2 million finish, Argo is enjoying much better week-to-week holds. (The Town, which opened higher Argo with $23.8 million, fell 38 percent to $9.7 million in its third weekend.)

Sony Pictures Animation’s $85 million Adam Sandler-voiced effort Hotel Transylvania jumped two spots into second place with $9.5 million in its fifth weekend. The film, which has scored slim drops since its robust $42.5 million debut in September, only fell 27 percent this weekend — the final frame before Halloween. It will be interesting to see whether Hotel holds up in the holiday’s wake, but it’s already a monster hit. With $130.4 million total, Hotel is already Sony Pictures Animation’s highest grossing film ever, above Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which grossed $124.9 million in 2009. It’s also given Adam Sandler a much-needed career boost following his back-to-back misfires, Jack and Jill and That’s My Boy.

The pricey novel adaptation Cloud Atlas finished in third place with a weak $9.4 million. Remarkably, that was the best start of any of this weekend’s newcomers, which is a testament to the weakness of the frame. The heady drama, which follows six separate storylines and stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, and Hugh Grant in various roles, genders, and races, proved too difficult for mainstream audiences to latch onto. Audiences, which were 77 percent above the age of 25, issued the film a “C+” CinemaScore.

For Warner Bros., Cloud Atlas‘ failure is not the worst news — the studio acquired domestic distribution rights for a reported $15 million and marketed the film — but the real losers here are the Wachowski siblings and the foreign investors who financed the project. Cloud Atlas cost a whopping $100 million, and it has no chance of making that money back — at least not in the States. Another loser? Tom Hanks, whose box office clout has all but disappeared in recent years. Cloud Atlas arrives on the heels of two other box office underperformers: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close ($31.9 million) and Larry Crowne ($35.6 million).

In fourth, Paranormal Activity 4 dropped by a massive 70 percent — a high point for the Paranormal franchise (PA2 dropped by 60 percent in its second weekend. PA3 fell 65 percent) — to $8.7 million. After ten days, Paramount’s $5 million found footage sequel has earned $42.6 million, which is still $10 million less than PA3 grossed in its first weekend.

Taken 2 took fifth place, sliding 40 percent to $8.0 million, which gives Fox’s $45 million action thriller a $117.4 million total. Though the Liam Neeson vehicle is a huge hit, it’s becoming clear that it will not surpass the final $145 million domestic gross of the original Taken. In its fourth weekend, Taken, which opened with half of what Taken 2 made, earned $11.3 million. Taken 2 is falling much faster.

1. Argo – $12.4 million
2. Hotel Transylvania – $9.5 million
3. Cloud Atlas – $9.4 million
4. Paranormal Activity 4 – $8.7 million
5. Taken 2 – $8.0 million

Outside the Top 5, three new wide releases all performed embarrassingly. Open Road’s $20 million videogame adaptation/horror sequel Silent Hill: Revelation 3D started in sixth place with $8.0 million. The original Silent Hill surprised analysts with a strong $20.2 million debut in 2006, but it clearly didn’t leave enough of an impression on audiences for them to show up for a sequel six years later. Crowds gave the film an uninspiring “C” CinemaScore.

Two other films did even worse. Paramount’s surprisingly edgy Victoria Justice vehicle Fun Size grossed $4.1 million from 3,014 theaters. The $14 million film garnered a”B” CinemaScore grade from crowds, which were 67 percent female and 61 percent below the age of 18. Gerard Butler’s new surfing drama Chasing Mavericks , meanwhile, tanked in twelfth place with $2.2 million from 2,006 theaters, giving it a $1,099 per theater average. Audiences issued the film a “B+” CinemaScore.

Internationally, Skyfall, the 23rd picture in the James Bond series, got off to a massive start. The film grossed $77.7 million from 25 territories, including $32.4 million from the U.K. (where the film set a new attendance record on Saturday), $9.1 million from France, and $8.6 million from Russia. According to Sony, Skyfall‘s start was 76 percent bigger than the launch of Casino Royale, and 30 percent bigger than Quantum of Solace‘s debut. The film opens stateside on Nov. 9.