The fright film The Devil Inside has scared up a monstrous 34.5 million dollar opening weekend to help Hollywood exorcise its recent box-office demons, according to studio estimates.
The surprise hit from Paramount Pictures debuted well above industry expectations, and knocked Tom Cruise's latest M:I blockbuster off the top spot, as horror fans crowded cinemas for the low-budget tale about exorcists trying to free a woman possessed by evil spirits.
Between The Devil Inside and solid results for holdover films, Hollywood's business soared over the first full weekend of 2012 after a sluggish holiday season.
Overall US revenues totalled 144 million dollars, up 29 per cent from the same weekend last year, when True Grit led with 14.6 million, according to box-office tracker Hollywood.com.
Paramount is already well into profit with The Devil Inside, an independently produced movie that the studio bought for one million dollars. It's the latest such low-budgeted horror acquisition for the studio, which bought Paranormal Activity cheaply and turned it into a 100 million dollar sensation that was followed by two hit sequels.
Like Paranormal Activity and other Paramount hit Cloverfield, The Devil Inside is a fictional tale shot in a mock documentary style.
According to Paramount, 59 per cent of viewers for The Devil Inside were under 25 and 85 per cent were under 35, prime viewers for Hollywood who had not turned up in their usual numbers for much of last year.
The Devil Inside bumped another Paramount hit, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, out of the top spot after two weekends at number one. Ghost Protocol slipped to number two with 20.5 million dollars, raising its US total to 170.2 million.