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.
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