Box Office Shocker: 'The Devil Inside' Could Score $30 Mil Debut for Paramount

 Insurge Pictures

Paramount's R-rated horror pic The Devil Inside is scaring up massive business at the domestic box office, where it's now on course to open as high as $30 million.

At this rate, the film will easily take the No. 1 spot away from fellow Paramount title Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol, which has ruled the box office since opening nationwide on Dec. 20.

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Devil Inside, which is being released via Paramount's micro-budgeted Insurge label, was acquired by the studio for a mere $1 million. Insurge was launched after the phenomenal success of another low-budget horror film, Paranormal Activity. One note of irony--Devil Inside received an F CinemaScore.

Heading into the weekend, Paramount indicated that Devil Inside would open in the $8 million to $10 million range, but that number has been revised upward in light of the film's midnight performance Thursday night, followed by strong matinee business. Devil Inside earned $2 million in its midnight runs.

Directed and co-written by William Brent Bell, the documentary style Devil Inside is about a woman who becomes involved in a series of exorcisms after her own mother was supposedly possessed, killing three people. Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Steven Schneider, a producer on the Paranormal Activity franchise, brought the project to Paramount.

Early January is a popular landing spot for genre fare; in 2009, The Unborn opened to $19.8 million, while Daybreakers opened to $15.1 million in 2010.

Devil Inside is the only new wide release of the weekend.

Ghost Protocol is expected to gross roughly $5.8 million on Friday for a $19 million weekend, putting its domestic gross at nearly $170 million.

At the awards box office, the news will be Focus Features and Working Title's arthouse hit Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, which makes a major push in expanding from 57 theaters to more than 800 as awards season heats up. The espionage pic, starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Tom Hardy, has earned $4.5 million to date domestically.

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