"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" bedeviled its competition in its box-office debut this weekend, hauling in $30.2 million with its mix of courtroom drama and classic horror.
The film, inspired by true events, follows a Catholic priest on trial for negligent homicide following the death of a satanically possessed 19-year-old.
Its PG-13 rating and cast, including Oscar nominees Tom Wilkinson (search), Laura Linney and Shohreh Aghdashloo, helped give it wide appeal, bumping last week's newcomer, "Transporter 2," from the No. 1 spot, according to studio estimates.
Overall revenue for this weekend's top 12 films was up 16 percent from the same period last year, said Paul Dergarabedian (search), president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
"Transporter 2" fell to third place with three-day estimated ticket sales of $7.2 million. The action sequel dropped below "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," which held on to the No. 2 spot in its fourth week with $7.9 million, boosting its total domestic gross to $82.3 million.
The critically panned "The Man," a buddy comedy that throws together federal agent Samuel L. Jackson and dental supply salesman Eugene Levy (search) to solve a murder, opened in sixth place with $4.0 million.
"An Unfinished Life," which stars Robert Redford, Morgan Freeman and Jennifer Lopez in the story of a rancher reluctantly reunited with his estranged daughter-in-law, opened well in limited release, with $1.0 million and a per theater average of $7,264.
Meanwhile, "The Constant Gardener," starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz and based on a John le Carre novel, moved to fourth place in its second week. The film took in $4.8 million, bringing its total to $19.1 million, while playing on fewer than half the number of screens given to "The Exorcism of Emily Rose."
Dergarabedian attributed the popularity of "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," to its genre-bending style.
"It has a lot of very interesting elements that make it not your typical horror movie," he said.
The film's debut marks the third biggest September opener, behind "Sweet Home Alabama" and the first "Rush Hour."
Rory Bruer, president of distribution for Sony Pictures, called the opening "phenomenal."
"The movie cost us less than $20 million to make. We would have been very happy had the picture opened to $15 million," he said.
Raunchy summer comedies like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" and "The Wedding Crashers" also continue to boost the sagging box office.
Still, overall revenues for the year are down about 6 percent and attendance is down about 9 percent.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Monday.
1. "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," $30.2 million.
2. "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," $7.9 million.
3. "Transporter 2," $7.2 million.
4. "The Constant Gardener," $4.8 million.
5. "Red Eye," $4.6 million.
6. "The Man," $4.0 million.
7. "The Brothers Grimm," $3.3 million.
8. "Wedding Crashers," $3.2 million.
9. "Four Brothers," $2.9 million.
10. "March of the Penguins," $2.5 million.
11. "The Skeleton Key," $1.6 million.
12. "The Cave," $1.3 million.