“Devil Inside” kicks off 2012 with $34m Box Office
By Scott Mendelson
HollywoodNews.com:More often than not, especially when dealing with big numbers, opening weekends are about marketing, not the quality of the film. So don’t be too shocked when you hear that Paramount’s The Devil Inside opened with $34.5 million this weekend. Yes, the film is allegedly terrible. Yes, audiences nationwide have allegedly been booing at the (allegedly atrocious) finale. But sometimes it’s about a popular genre, a solid trailer, and the good luck of following up a recent smash hit. Exorcism and religious-themed movies have always been popular. The simple reason is that, along with the usual horror junkies, they attract more religious/spiritual moviegoers that otherwise disdain horror pictures. We’ve over/under $20 million openings from the likes of Stigmata (whose $18 million opening in September 1999 would equal about $28 million today), Exorcist: The Beginning ($18 million in August 2004), The Unborn ($19 million in January 2009), The Last Exorcism ($20 million in August 2010), and The Rite ($18 million last January). The anamoly that The Devil Inside most resembles is the somewhat surprising $30 million debut of The Exorcism of Emily Rose back in late 2005. But that film had both a PG-13 (like The Rite and The Last Exorcism) and a prestigious adult cast (Laura Linney, Tom Wilkinson, etc). Heck, throw in the $22-24 million debuts of various supernatural horror films (White Noise, The Haunting In Connecticut, The Amityville Horror, etc) and you can see that, when adjusted for inflation and a few other factors, a $34.5 million debut for The Devil Inside is quite impressive (it is indeed the biggest debut for a religious horror picture) but not a complete surprise.
As for those other factors, sometimes your best marketing weapon is your last hit film. Why did Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief open with $32 million in February 2010? Well mostly because its moody and effective (IE – misleading!) teaser played in front of every set of eyeballs who happened to see Avatar. The second release from Paramount’s Insurge label (ten micro-budgeted genre films being given wide release) had a snappy and creepy little trailer that just happened to play in front of pretty much every print of Paranormal Activity 3 last October. That film opened to $53 million and eventually grossed $104 million, so an effective trailer targeting just the very demographics that would rush out and see such a film counts as a genuine gift. So you had pinpoint marketing targeting the very demographics who would be drawn to your picture, plus the inherent appeal of religious horror pictures, plus the fact that it was the week’s lone new release and the first ‘real’ horror film released since October, and you had the recipe for a breakout opening. As it stands, it’s the fourth-biggest debut for a supernatural horror film (behind Paranormal Activity 3, Paranormal Activity 2, The Grudge, and The Ring Two), and the third-biggest debut in January history. Where it goes from here is frankly irrelevant. The film cost $1 million to make, so even if it drops like a rock due to being infamously terrible (as expected, it had a terrible 2.1x weekend multiplier), it still gets to $50-60 million and counts as probably the most profitable film of 2012. So if you bought a ticket this weekend and feel used and abused, cheer up! You just helped Paramount cover the marketing/distribution losses for the Hugo ($52 million and help in the funding of the next Young Adult ($14.7 million).
The rest of the news involves holdovers. The major expansion was for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, which finally opened semi-wide (809 theaters) and grossed $5.8 million. The picture has been doing scorching limited-release business all last month, and its solid expansion following that is further evidence that the film would have been a more serious Oscar contender had it been released earlier in the year, if not even just its original November 18th release date. Its cume of $10.4 million is gravy on its already successful $25 million foreign take. It and Young Adult (another inexplicably ignored Oscar contender with $14.7 million thus far) are outpacing more likely Oscar contenders like My Week With Marilyn ($10.4 million after two months of semi-wide release), Shame ($2 million, alas handicapped by the NC-17), and The Artist ($7.1 million). But an earlier release and more high-profile box office performance would have possibly netted Gary Oldman the Oscar nomination he so richly deserves. Considering that we were coming off a holiday weekend, the drops for the mainstream holdover films are all shockingly small, giving credence to the theory that much of The Devil Inside’s audience consisted of people who otherwise wouldn’t have seen a movie this weekend. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol earned another $20 million (-31%) in its fourth weekend of play, putting the Brad Bird franchise entry at $170 million, or within an earshot of the original entry’s $181 million domestic gross. Its $20 million weekend is nearly double any other fourth weekend in the franchise and would still be the film’s biggest third weekend even if you didn’t count the 500-screen IMAX preview. Worldwide, the film just surpassed the $457 million worldwide gross of Brian DePalma’s Mission: Impossible.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is making a college try of trying to catch up to the original’s $209 million cume following a 1/3 smaller opening weekend ($40 million versus $62 million) four weekends ago. The sequel is at $157 million, which is just $8 million away from where Sherlock Holmes was at this exact weekend two years ago. Now the sequel had an extra seven days to make that money, but it is almost keeping up the same pace as the original. Worldwide, the film is speeding towards $300 million. The first film made $500 million worldwide, and the comparative cost ($120 million for part II versus $90 million for part I) means that the second entry will be a smash even if it only makes it to $400 million. If Warner Bros. can make Sherlock Holmes: The Final Problem Was Not Quite As Final As We Thought for under $140 million, then they should go right on ahead. Not quite gaining ground as well is Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked. The third entry now sits with $101 million and still trails its predecessors by $70-90 million. Still, the film cost just $75 million and will end up with at least $250 million worldwide, so if they can keep the budget under $80 million, Fox can certainly get away with Alvin and the Chipmunks: IN SPACE if they so choose.
Among the other big Christmas releases, David Fincher’s remake/adaptation/etc of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo continues to prove that there is a clear audience for R-rated, adult-driven franchises, but that they shouldn’t cost $90 million to make. The film sits with $76 million, and it just might squeak by $100 million domestic (it dropped just 24% this weekend), especially if Oscar shines on Ronney Mara. But in terms of actually being profitable, Sony will need strong overseas numbers to justify an adaptation of The Girl Who Played With Fire. The two family entries, We Bought A Zoo and War Horse, now both sit with $56 million and both are aided in the race to profitability by their smaller budgets. Cameron Crowe’s dramatic comedy cost $45 million, while Steven Spielberg’s sweeping World War I epic cost just $70 million. Spielberg’s other Christmas picture, The Adventures of Tintin, has crossed $60 million, which is pretty impressive considering A) the US territory was basically just a bonus after the $260 million-and counting foreign grosses and B) it had an opening day of just $2.3 million.
To read more go to Mendelson’s Memo
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