Box Office Preview: Horror Pic 'The Devil Inside' Kicks Off 2012

 Paramount

Paramount's R-rated horror pic The Devil Inside hopes to scare up good business as it debuts at the domestic box office, becoming the first nationwide release of 2012.

Devil Inside, which is being released via Paramount's micro-budgeted Insurge label, was acquired by Paramount for only $1 million. Insurge was launched after the phenomenal success of another low-budget horror film, Paranormal Activity.

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Tracking suggests Devil Inside will open in the $8 million to $10 million range, which likely won't be enough to topple Paramount's Tom Cruise holiday hit Mission: Impossible--Ghost Protocol from the top spot.

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 brought the project to Paramount.

There's always a chance of Devil Inside overperforming if word of mouth is good. 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. However, that was before the downturn in moviegoing.

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

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.

Many awards contenders will wait until next weekend to expand, timed to the Golden Globes (Tinker Tailor was snubbed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which administers the Globes).

On the commercial side, box office observers believe Ghost Protocol will gross in the mid teens this weekend. Through Wednesday, the Tom Cruise tentpole has earned $147.2 million domestically, and north of $225 million overseas.

Warner Bros.' Robert Downey Jr.-Jude Law sequel Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows should stay high up on the chart. The sequel has earned $141.5 million domestically, and north of $100 million overseas.

Sony's R-rated The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo moved up the box office chart to No. 3 this week (family films saw a drop off as kids went back to school). Directed by David Fincher, Dragon Tattoo has earned $63.8 million domestically and north of $12 million overseas, where it has opened in Scandinavia and the U.K.

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