SUNDAY AM, 5TH UPDATE: This ‘found-footage’ exorcism film surged for the normally slow post-holiday weekend and pushed 2012’s first official moviegoing weekend to gross $144M overall, +28% from last year. Paramount’s fledgling Insurge label’s The Devil Inside scored the biggest opening for the first weekend of a new year and the 3rd biggest January opening (behind Cloverfield and the Star Wars reissue). Even rival studios were saying hooray for the genre winner. But not without snark. “The industry starts out the year with a big number — and a people pleasing ‘F’ CinemaScore,” one rival studio exec snorted. But there’s no arguing that Paramount may have another Paranormal Activity mega-profit project in theaters this weekend. (FYI, Steven Schneider from the Paranormal Activity team is exec producer on this pic as well.) Insurge made a $1M acquisition of The Devil Inside and scored a big $34.5M opening weekend, including larger-than-average $2M midnights from 1,400 theaters. There fears that ‘F’ word-of-mouth for this genre film playing very young and very ethnic would be frontloaded. But it’s rare for a studio to recoup its cost from just the midnight shows.
The win pushed down into 2nd place Paramount’s Christmas and New Year’s topper M:I4 co-funded by David Ellison’s Skydance Prods. Meanwhile Sony Pictures’ The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo had the smallest drop of top pictures all week, demonstrating its adult audience is still out there after a slow start. Among Oscar-buzzed films, DreamWorks/Disney’s War Horse holds for the Top 5 while Focus Features’ Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy expanded into 809 locations and snuck into the Top 10 for the first time since its limited release five weeks ago:
1. The Devil Inside (Paramount) NEW [2,285 Theaters]
Friday $16.8M, Saturday $11.7M, Estimated Weekend $34.5M
It’s the second film for Paramount’s low-budget Insurge label. And much like the studio’s Paranormal Activity franchise, the studio focused on marketing designed to trick audiences into believing this nonsense. So the campaign made the low production values The Devil Inside into the film that “The Vatican Doesn’t Want You To See”. (At what point do naifs wise up? Maybe now because audiences gave this crapfest an ‘F’ CinemaScore and single digit Rotten Tomatoes kudo.) It was a no-brainer for the studio to debut the trailer on October 21st with Paranormal Activity. The Halloween time period also proved key online, with viral scare videos and 911 calls pushed to fans. Since the film was acquired for just $1m, Paramount also kept the marketing cheap, cheap, cheap. The TV ads kicked off during AMC’s The Walking Dead finale November 27th. There was a big ethnic push. The Hispanic campaign included English and Spanish language nets, wild posting, digital boards, and radio in the top 12 Hispanic markets. Branded horror programming roadblocks were placed on Sify, Chiller, AMC’s Fear Friday, and IFC Fright Night. Select targets for high-profile finales included Terra Nova and American Horror Story. And getting into the holiday spirit, the studio made a red band trailer as well as 10-sec scary radio spots to counter-program Christmas and New Year’s Eve across all 6 live network and cable late night shows covering festivities. (No wonder the heartland hates Hollywood…) There was Viacom’s usual MTV synergy, this time featuring reactions to the film from Jersey Shore numbskulls Deena and Vinny. The spot also aired on the show’s premiere the day before the film’s opening. “The Devil Inside iPad and iPhone application served as another opportunity to scare unsuspecting fans,” an exec tells me. “The application is presented as a test to find out how possessed you are, that in turn surprises fans with a scare from the film. Since its launch in late December, the app continues to see 4-star rating on iTunes from a global user base.” As for the midnight shows, Paramount organized radio DJs, food trucks, and prize giveaways to make each screening seem special. Using Twitter as a tool, the studio on Friday morning sent out tweets about “an unexpected theater possession” where the film broke down and a contortionist from the film scared a packed theater of fans. The lengths to which Hollywood has to go to market horror these days. Ugh.
2. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Paramount) Week 4 [3,555 Theaters]
Friday $6.2M, Saturday $9.1M, Weekend $20.5M, Cume $170.2M