By Brian Fuson | Thompson on Hollywood January 8, 2012 at 1:07PM
Call it a New Year's surprise.
The ultra-low budget horror film "The Devil Inside" from Paramount Insurge caught the industry off guard and racked up an estimated $34.5 million to possess the top spot while averaging a stout $15,098 per theater. The stellar debut of the exorcist thriller catapulted the weekend total to around $144 million, notching an increase of nearly 29% from the comparable frame a year ago – and got the 2012 boxoffice off to a strong start.
The expectation for R-rated “Devil Inside,” a $1-million Paramount pickup, was between $12 to $15 million, with maybe a third place finish. The Christmas and holiday holdovers were set to rule the weekend, as last year’s “Season of the Witch” debuted during the same session in 2011 and grossed $10.6 million. “Devil Inside” garnered few positive reviews, with just a 7% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Its F Cinemascore suggests a rapid falloff however.
Overall, Paramount dominated the boxoffice this weekend, having films place in the top two spots and three in the top 10 -- for a combined gross of $61.6 million between them. The studio's “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” held tight in the second spot with an estimated $20.5 million, down just 30% from the first three days of the four-day New Year’s Holiday weekend, a solid hold for the Brad Bird picture. The Tom Cruise actioner added 100 theaters this weekend and has picked up about $170.2 million to date. And Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg's motion capture family film “The Adventures of Tintin” grossed around $6.6 million to place eighth, off 42% from a week ago while losing 81 locations. The animated feature, based on the books by French author Herge, has grossed close to $62 million in North America, a fraction of its $250-million-plus gross overseas.
Warner Bros.’ “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” followed in the third spot with an estimated $14.06 million, slipping a modest 33% from last week while losing 100 locations. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law star in Guy Ritchie's period VFX actioner. Now in its fourth weekend in theaters, “Shadows” has grossed an estimated $157.4 million so far.
It turns out that Sony’s “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” is holding its own at the box office, as the action-thriller brought up the fourth spot with an estimated $11.3 million and had the lowest drop of the weekend with a slim slide of 24% from the holiday frame. “Girl” added 36 engagements to the Daniel Craig-Rooney Mara starrer, which has gleaned around $73.8 million to date -- the studio will push to pass the $100 million mark in North America.
Making its appearance in the top 10 for the first time was Focus Features’ “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” which moved up from 17th into the ninth spot with an estimated $5.48 million. The Gary Oldman starrer had the highest per-theater average among the top 10 films as well with $6,774 from 809 locales, as the distributor added 752 venues. The well- reviewed spy-thriller from director Tomas Afredson has accumulated an estimated $10.1 million to date.
Two Fox holiday holdovers are holding well. Fox's “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked” came in fifth with an estimated $9.5 million, down 42% from last weekend, even while losing 299 locations. The animated family film has shown sturdy legs through the holidays as its cume moves up to an estimated $111.6 million. And Fox’s family film “We Bought a Zoo” brought up the seventh spot with an estimated $8.45 million, down a modest 36% from last weekend. The Matt Damon starrer is holding its own at the boxoffice and has taken in an estimated $56.5 million.
More disappointing is Disney’s “War Horse,” the period drama from Spielberg, which moved into sixth place. The World War I epic pulled an estimated $8.6 million and slipped a precipitous 40% from a week earlier--even as the distributor added 236 theaters, which was the largest increase among films in wide release this weekend. “War Horse” has taken in around $56.8 million.