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‘Devil Inside’ Lifts Hollywood Spirits With $34.5M

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Actress Zhang Ziyi talks to fans on the red carpet prior to the screening of The Devil Inside Me at the ScreenSingapore 2011 opening night gala on June 5, 2011 in Singapore. (credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Actress Zhang Ziyi talks to fans on the red carpet prior to the screening of The Devil Inside Me at the ScreenSingapore 2011 opening night gala on June 5, 2011 in Singapore. (credit: Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The fright flick “The Devil Inside” scared up a monstrous $34.5 million opening weekend to help Hollywood exorcise its recent box-office demons, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The surprise hit from Paramount Pictures debuted well above industry expectations as horror fans crowded theaters for the low-budget tale about exorcists trying to free a woman possessed by evil spirits.

Between “The Devil Inside” and solid results for holdover films, Hollywood’s business soared over the first full weekend of 2012 after a sluggish holiday season that ended a ho-hum year at the box office.

Overall domestic revenues totaled $144 million, up 29 percent from the same weekend last year, when “True Grit” led with $14.6 million, according to box office tracker Hollywood.com.

Paramount already is well into profit with “The Devil Inside,” an independently produced movie that the studio bought for $1 million. It’s the latest such low-budgeted horror acquisition for the studio, which bought “Paranormal Activity” cheaply and turned it into a $100 million sensation that was followed by two hit sequels.

“The Devil Inside” bumped another Paramount hit, Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” out of the top spot after two weekends at No. 1. “Ghost Protocol” slipped to No. 2 with $20.5 million, raising its domestic total to $170.2 million.

Just a day before “The Devil Inside” opened Friday, industry analysts had expected “Ghost Protocol” would remain No. 1 this weekend. The most optimistic forecasters figured “The Devil Inside” might manage $15 million, less than half the business it actually did.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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