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Apparently sometimes you can’t go back to that well too many times. Despite critics claiming it’s filled with the same old stuff, audiences weren’t scared enough to avoid The Devil Inside this weekend. In fact, not only did the film hit at #1, it’s generated the third biggest opening in January history behind Cloverfield ($40m in 2008) and Star Wars Special Edition ($35.9m in 1997). The Devil Inside showed a huge upturn in box office for exorcism movies, shadowing recent films like The Rite ($14.7m opening weekend) and The Last Exorcism ($20.3m opening weekend), both of which were PG-13 films. The Devil Inside was struck with an R rating. But we shouldn’t look to that for the reasoning behind such a lucrative opening.

Instead, we have to look at the film’s ending. More so, we have to look at the buzz that was generated late last week because of The Devil Inside‘s ending. Test audiences were angry. Some even booed and yelled expletives at the screen when the film ended. A lot of this buzz came late Thursday night, and people who weren’t planning to see the movie may have changed their mind just to find out what the hell everyone was up in arms about. No, that can’t account for all of The Devil Inside‘s number. Some of that came from fans of the genre who wanted a good scare this weekend, but it had to have been a factor in some capacity. Paramount’s decision to shock people more with an abrupt ending than with anything in the actual context of the movie has seemed to paid off greatly.

Much of the rest of the the weekend was business per usual. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows had decent drops here in their third and fourth weekend in wide release, respectively. Ghost Protocol continues to shine overseas, as well, pulling an additional $287.9m so far in foreign markets on top of the $170m it’s made here in the states. Just under $90m from overtaking Mission: Impossible II’s $546.4m worldwide take, this fourth outing could end up being the biggest one of the franchise and a clear sign for Paramount – man, they’re winning all over right now – to continue with a part five. Who knows? They may even be able to convince Tom Cruise to come back for one last adventure before handing the series over to Jeremy Renner.

It was a good expansion for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which had a healthy $7,129 per theater average on 809 screens. The mass expansion of the Oscar hopefuls has officially begun with We Need to Talk About Kevin, A Dangerous Method, and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close all continuing to grow in theater count over the course of the month. Not all of them will be successful both in terms of box office as well as Oscar nominations, but it’s easy to pick out the movies studios think they have a shot with.

Here’s how the weekend broke down:

  1. The Devil Inside – $34.5m NEW
  2. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol – $20.5m (-30.3%) $170.2m total
  3. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – $14m (-32.7%) $157.4m total
  4. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – $11.3m (-23.8%) $76.8m total
  5. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked – $9.5m (-42%) $111.5m total
  6. War Horse – $8.6m (-40.4%) $56.8m total
  7. We Bought a Zoo – $8.4m (-36.2%) $56.5m total
  8. The Adventures of Tintin – $6.6m (-42.3%) $61.8m total
  9. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – $5.7m (+431.3%) $10.4m total
  10. New Year’s Eve – $3.2m (-48.5%) $52m total

We can definitely thank The Devil Inside and Paramount for the $122.3m the top 10 made this weekend. That’s up from the first weekend January 2011 when True Grit was topping in its third weekend out. The year before that we had Avatar knocking down every tree in the forest of its competition, so it’s going to take a serious blockbuster to ever overtake that. But what we should be looking at is the positive. Going in, we were expecting the weekend to be the worst in more than a decade, and thanks in large part to Paramount deciding to stir controversy, we have a decent weekend on our hands. Evidently, January doesn’t have to be a graveyard as long as there’s a healthy dose of faux enthusiasm.

Nothing faux about next weekend. At least not with Dolly Parton. She’s au naturale, right? Our first multi-film weekend of the year hits with Joyful Noise, Contraband, and a Beauty and the Beast re-release in 3-D. Judging by how well The Lion King did this past September we might be looking at another bank day for Disney. But don’t underestimate Queen Latifah. Don’t ever underestimate Queen Latifah. That motto has kept me alive for 33 years.

We’ll be back later in the week to see how the weekend is shaping up.


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