Updated 9:20 a.m. PT Saturday
"The Devil Inside" wildly overperformed on Friday, taking $16.9 million and knocking "MIssion: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol" out of the top spot at the box office.
Considering the movie had a budget of less than $1 million, the number is stunning. Paramount had expected "Devil" would gross $8 million for the entire weekend. Outside box-office watchers put that figure at $12 million to $14 million. And BoxOffice.com predicted $23 million.
The scary movie is on track to exceed even that. With a $16.9 million opening Friday, "The Devil Inside" could close the weekend with nearly $40 million.
It took $2 million at midnight showings alone.
On Friday, nothing else came close to "Devil." Paramount's "M:I:4," which had ruled the box office, took $6.2 million, and the Warner Bros. "Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows" took $4.3 million. Both those movies are now in their fourth week of release.
While the R-rated "Devil" is drawing surprisingly large audiences, it is hardly universally beloved. Slightly more audience members gave the movie an "F" -- 19 percent -- as an "A" -- 16 percent, according to the polling firm Cinemascore. Most audience members gave it a disappointing "C" or a miserable "D" -- 24 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
And critics clearly hate it: Its Rotten Tomatoes score is only 7 percent.
Those numbers are a bad omen for the movie's success past its opening weekend. But with a nearly $17 million opening Friday, the movie has built a buzz beyond hard-core horror fans. With no other new movies opening in wide release this weekend, viewers who have already seen holdovers are checking it out.
Unsurprisingly, the movie skews young and male: 59 percent of the audience was younger than 25 and 85 percent was younger than 34. Men made up 54 percent of viewers.
With the success of "Devil," Paramount has the No. 1, 2 and 8 movies at the domestic box office. "The Adventures of Tintin" grossed $1.7 million on Friday.
With only one new movie opening in wide release, this weekend is shaping up to be “catch-up” time at the multiplex – a chance for audiences to see films they’ve been meaning to watch, but haven’t had the opportunity.
But there’s a twist.
While “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” likely will spend its last weekend at the top of the box office – there is a chance “The Devil Inside,” an R-rated horror film from Paramount – could knock it off its perch.
Even at No. 2, Paramount has a winner with “Devil.” It cost just under $1 million to make, and the studio is projecting that it will take in $8 million over the weekend. Outside box-office watchers say that Paramount is low-balling: The most conservative among industry experts put the number at $12 million to $16 million and BoxOffice.com is predicting as much as $23 million.
Paramount’s television advertising has been non-stop, and the studio’s digital spend looks to be massive, with new clips almost every day on major horror websites.
On top of that, horror fans haven’t had a major new movie since October, when “Paranormal Activity” – also a Paramount release – ruled the box office. So they’re waiting.
There is a tiny bit of competition for the horror viewer this weekend: Image Entertainment is opening the R-rated “Beneath the Darkness,” starring Dennis Quaid, in limited release. Also in limited release this weekend are Magnolia’s R-rated drama “Roadie” and Red Flag Releasing’s unrated Japanese film “Norwegian Wood.”
“Devil’s” tracking is only adequate. The research firm NRG says that 56 percent of those polled are aware of the movie. Not surprisingly, its best numbers are among men younger than 25, 64 percent of whom report some awareness of the movie. Among women younger than 25, the number is 61 percent.
Among people between 17 and 34, 63 percent are aware of the movie.
“Devil” is about a woman whose mother has brutally killed three people. Twenty years later, she travels to Italy, where her mother has been committed to a hospital for the criminally insane. There, the young woman convinces two young exorcists to cure her mother – but they find four powerful demons.
The movie has no established stars and was written by William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterman, with Bell directing and Peterman producing.
Movies like “Insidious,” which grossed $97 million worldwide on a $1.5 million budget, and the phenomenally successful “Paranormal Activity” franchise show that ultra-low-budget horror films such as “Devil” can draw significant audiences.
But can “Devil” displace “Mission: Impossible?”
“M:I:4,” entering its fourth weekend in release, is looking at a $19 million weekend. It grossed $29.4 million last weekend, $38.2 million over the four-day New Year's weekend.
Last weekend’s No. 2 movie, “Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows,” is projected to take in $14 million to $15 million this weekend.
Nobody expects “Devil” to perform anywhere near “Paranormal Activity 3,” which opened to nearly $53 million last October. One other horror film opened to No. 1 last year – New Line’s “The Rite,” which opened the last weekend in January to just short of $15 million.