Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- The exorcism film “The Devil Inside” opened in first place with $34.5 million in sales at U.S. and Canadian theaters, knocking off Tom Cruise’s “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” after a two-week run at the top.
“Mission: Impossible” dropped to second place with $20.5 million, Hollywood.com Box-Office said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures released both films.
Box-office sales rose 30 percent in the first full weekend of the new year, suggesting studios and theater owners are getting off to a faster start in 2012. Domestic ticket sales declined 3.4 percent last year and attendance dropped 4.2 percent to the lowest level in 16 years.
“‘Devil Inside’ just took the whole industry by surprise,” said Jeff Bock, a box-office analyst for Exhibitor Relations Co. in Los Angeles, in a telephone interview. “A horror film that comes out at this time of year is expected to open at $5 million to $10 million. It’s usually a wasteland for films that come out in January.”
The movie, made for $1 million, won over audiences in spite of critical reviews. Of 28 posted on rottentomatoes.com, 26 were negative. The film is about a woman who is controlled by an evil presence and her daughter’s effort to free her by arranging for an exorcism.
The movie features Fernanda Andrade, Bonnie Morgan and Evan Helmuth. “The Devil Inside” was expected to have sales of $14.1 million, according to researcher Box Office Mojo.
Bock said the film was helped by a social media campaign aimed at younger people that used Facebook, Twitter and other websites to spread messages that teenagers shouldn’t see the film. It was a strategy similar to one used for “Paranormal Activity,” a low-budget horror film propelled by Internet marketing and word of mouth to claim the top spot in October 2009.
“The viral marketing team at Paramount was the same team that launched ‘Paranormal Activity,’ so they had an inside scoop into what makes a viral and grassroots success,” Bock said.
In “Mission: Impossible,” Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, leader of an elite special-operations squad that takes on the government’s most difficult assignments. This time, team members go underground to clear their names after being falsely implicated in a bombing at the Kremlin. The movie also features Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg.
“Mission: Impossible” was expected to have weekend sales of $15.8 million, according to Box Office Mojo. It has collected $170.2 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters since its Dec. 16 release, Hollywood.com said.
“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” fell to third place from second with sales of $14.1 million. The film from Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. features Robert Downey Jr. as the cerebral sleuth created by novelist Arthur Conan Doyle.
“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” from Sony Corp., was fourth with $11.3 million in its third weekend. Rooney Mara stars as Lisbeth Salander, a computer hacker employed by a security firm. She joins with a journalist, played by Daniel Craig, to investigate a chain of homicides. The film is an English-language remake of a Swedish adaption of the novel by Stieg Larsson.
“Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked,” from News Corp.’s Fox studio, was fifth with $9.5 million. The movie is the third in a series that began in 2007. The picture has generated $111.6 million since it was released on Dec. 16, according to Hollywood.com.
Weekend revenue for the top 12 films rose to $128.4 million from a year earlier, Hollywood.com said. Through Jan. 8, revenue and attendance in 2012 have both risen 15 percent. The amounts below are based on actual ticket sales for Jan. 6 and Jan. 7 and estimates for yesterday.
--Editors: Rob Golum, Sylvia Wier
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