Box Office: Moviegoers are possessed by 'The Devil Inside' [Updated]
"The Devil Inside" scared off its rivals at the box office this weekend, far exceeding industry expectations with a studio-estimated $34.5 million in ticket sales.
Heading into the weekend, prerelease audience surveys had indicated that Paramount Pictures' low-budget horror film would collect no more than $15 million domestically. Instead, the movie -- the only new release to hit theaters nationwide this weekend -- easily unseated "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" from the No. 1 spot. After two weekends in the top position, the fourth installment in the Tom Cruise action franchise came in second with $20.5 million. Since its release in mid-December, the movie has racked up a strong total of $170.2 million.
As a result of the robust ticket sales, weekend receipts were up 29% compared with the same period in 2011. The positive start at the box office in 2012 is welcome news for the industry after year-end results revealed that ticket sales tumbled roughly 3% in 2011 while attendance fell to a 16-year low.
"The Devil Inside," about a woman filming a documentary about exorcisms and her mother's involvement in them, will probably end up being a financial winner for Paramount. The studio acquired the movie for only $1 million, not including marketing costs.
The film was the second to be distributed through Paramount's Insurge label, the studio's outlet for "micro-budget" movies aimed at young audiences. The division was founded after the surprise success of the inexpensive horror flick "Paranormal Activity" in 2009. Its first release was last year's "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never," a music documentary about the tween star that cost around $13 million to make and ended up grossing $98 million worldwide.
Indeed, a young crowd propelled "The Devil Inside" to No. 1 this weekend, as 85% of the audience was under the age of 35. But those who saw the critically loathed picture weren't pleased with the experience, assigning the movie an average grade of F, according to market research firm CinemaScore. While horror films often recieve low CinemaScores, such a dismal grade is unprecedented. Not that bad word-of-mouth seemed to be substantially affecting ticket sales. From Friday to Saturday, receipts were down 27% -- on par with the average slide for a scary flick.
Of the high-profile movies that debuted around Christmas, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is holding up especially well. The David Fincher-directed film had the smallest decline in ticket sales this weekend of any movie in the top 10, falling 23% to $11.3 million for a total of $76.8 million. After a slow start, the film may be able to make up some ground at the box office if it keeps playing well through the winter.
"Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" is also holding up decently, with receipts declining 33% this weekend. The Robert Downey Jr. sequel collected $14.1 million, bringing its total to $157.4 million -- still far from the original's ultimate sum of $209 million in 2009.
[Updated 12:49 p.m., Jan. 8: It was a strong weekend overseas for the "Sherlock Holmes" sequel, which took in $43.4 million from 50 foreign countries. The movie is playing best in Russia, where it took in $7.1 million in its second weekend, giving it $22.2 million so far -- 67% ahead of how much the original had grossed in Russia in the same amount of time. The sequel has yet to open in a number of major international markets, including Brazil, China and France.
Here are the top 10 movies at the domestic box office this weekend, with international grosses when available, according to studio estimates and Hollywood.com:
2. "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" (Paramount/Skydance): $20.5 million on its fourth weekend, down 30%. $27.7 million overseas in 55 foreign markets. Domestic total: $170.2 million. International total: $287.9 million.
3. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" (Warner Bros./Village Roadshow): $14.1 million on its fourth weekend, down 33%. $43.4 million overseas in 50 foreign markets. Domestic total: $157.4 million. International total: $177.2 million.
4. "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" (Sony/MGM): $11.3 million on its third weekend, down 23%. $12.6 million overseas in 33 foreign markets. Domestic total: $76.8 million. International total: $29.3 million.
5. "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked" (Fox): $9.5 million on its fourth weekend, down 42%. $30.1 million overseas in 62 foreign markets. Domestic total: $111.6 million. International total: $128.4 million.
6. "War Horse" (Disney/DreamWorks): $8.6 million on its third weekend, down 40%. $2 million overseas in four foreign markets. Domestic total: $56.8 million. International total: $7.6 million.
7. "We Bought a Zoo" (Fox): $8.5 million on its third weekend, down 36%. $2.6 million overseas in 14 foreign markets. Domestic total: $56.5 million. International total: $13.5 million.
8. "The Adventures of Tintin" (Paramount/Sony): $6.6 million on its third weekend, down 42%. $5.3 million overseas in 50 foreign markets. Domestic total: $61.9 million. International total: $253.8 million.
9. "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (Focus): $5.8 million, expanding from 87 theaters to 809 theaters. Domestic total: $10.4 million.
10. "New Year's Eve" (Warner Bros.): $3.3 million on its fifth weekend, down 48%. $5.3 million overseas in 56 foreign markets. Domestic total: $52 million. International total: $80 million.]
-- Amy Kaufman
Photo: Suzan Crowley stars in "The Devil Inside." Credit: Paramount Pictures