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How the Church Helped Turn 'Devil Inside' Into Mega-Hit

The Devil Inside Fernanda Andrade Hospital - H 2012
Insurge Pictures

A clergy member played an unexpected role in Paramount's marketing strategy for the exorcism film.

This article first appeared in the Jan. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The devil is in the details — and no one knows this better than studio marketers. So when Paramount marketing gurus Josh Greenstein and Megan Colligan set out to make a TV spot highlighting the communal experience of watching exorcism pic The Devil Inside, what better props to use than an actual church with a real member of the clergy?

On Dec. 15, scores of people were ushered into the Westminster Presbyterian Church in Pasadena for an advance showing of the film, which opened to an eye-popping $33.7 million over the Jan. 6 weekend.

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“We screened the movie at night. And the priest blessed people if they wanted,” Greenstein says. “He also was available after the movie to answer any questions about exorcisms.”

Greenstein and Colligan won’t reveal the clergy member’s identity, or whether he is actually a Catholic priest or a minister. “We didn’t want to advertise him or his faith,” Greenstein notes.

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Colligan says the studio pushed the envelope throughout the campaign, which resulted in the biggest debut ever for early January, thanks to heavy interest from young people and Catholic Hispanics.

“Our strategy was to anchor the campaign around making the film seem real, reflected by the slogan, ‘The film the Vatican doesn’t want you to see,’” Colligan says.

Paramount released a red-band trailer online Christmas Eve, prompting worldwide chatter (the film doesn’t roll out overseas for another three weeks) and the TV spot cut from the Westminster screening sparked a flurry of online comments. It’s not the first time the French gothic church, designed in the 1920s by Pasadena architect Sylvanus Marston, has been used by Hollywood. It was filmed for 1953’s The War of the Worlds and the Tom Cruise-starrer Valkyrie.