September 11, 2005

Exorcism film ‘Emily Rose’ blooms at box office

By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," a
courtroom drama loosely based on true events, scared the demons
away from the historically lackluster late summer box office by
registering the third-biggest opening for a September,
according to studio estimates issued on Sunday.

The film sold about $30.2 million worth of tickets in the
three days beginning Friday, earning more than the next five
movies combined. It cost less than $20 million to produce, said
its distributor, Sony Pictures.

"Exorcism" revolves around the trial of a priest, played by
Tom Wilkinson, who presided over the fatal exorcism of a
teen-ager, played by Jennifer Carpenter. Laura Linney plays the
priest's attorney.

Sony would have been happy with an opening of $15 million,
said Rory Bruer, president of domestic theatrical distribution
at the Sony Corp.-owned studio. It was released through Sony's
Screen Gems banner, which handles genre movies.

The record for a September opening was set in 2002 when
"Sweet Home Alabama" earned $35.7 million, passing the old mark
of $33 million set by "Rush Hour" in 1998, according to box
office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations.

Movies released at this time of the year are usually dead
on arrival, old leftovers dumped in theaters so that the
studios can then focus on their big year-end offerings. The
weekend after the Labor Day holiday is usually one of the
slowest of the year. But the $73.7 million in combined sales
for the top-12 films this time were 16 percent higher than
during the year-ago period, said Exhibitor Relations.

Far off in the distance, former champ "The 40-Year-Old
Virgin" rose one place to No. 2 with $7.9 million in its fourth
weekend. The total for the comedy stands at $82.3 million.

Last weekend's leader, the action-thriller "Transporter 2,"
starring Jason Statham, fell to No. 3 with $7.2 million. Its
10-day total rose to $30.1 million.

African thriller "The Constant Gardener," starring Ralph
Fiennes, slipped one place to No. 4 with $4.9 million, taking
its 10-day total to $19.1 million.

The box office contained one other new release, "The Man,"
a buddy comedy teaming Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy. It
opened at No. 7 with $4 million, lower than the $6
million-to-$7 million range that pundits had forecast last

"The 40-Year-Old Virgin" was released by Universal Pictures
and "The Constant Gardener" by Focus Features, both units of
NBC Universal, which is controlled by General Electric Co.

"Transporter 2" was released by Twentieth Century Fox, a
unit of News Corp. "The Man" was released by New Line Cinema, a
unit of Time Warner Inc.