The Exorcism Of Emily Rose did surprisingly well over the weekend. It was expected to be number one in a lackluster session, making 15 or perhaps 20 million. It grossed 30 million, a huge amount made more surprising by the low budget and lack of star power.
The reviews were middling at best, so what can explain the turnout?
First, this is horror. When a basic concept catches the fancy of the audience, it's not unusual for a minor film to open big. Look at last year's The Grudge. It starred Sarah Michelle Gellar, cost about half of Emily Rose, and opened with 39 million.
More important, Emily Rose greatly benefited from "underground" Christan advertising. The word was sent to many religious groups that this film took them seriously. For example, my friend over at Rene's Ramblings was invited to a pre-release screening. (He liked it, though thought the film took a Catholic view while he's a Protestant.)
I haven't seen the film, but it's apparently being sold as a battle between faith and "cold" science. Needless the say, the winner is never in doubt.