Paramount’s poorly reviewed horror The Devil Inside stormed to the top of the first full weekend of 2012 in a full-blooded debut that surprised rival executives.

The studio’s low budget division kick-started the year’s box office to ensure that overall returns were approximately 28% ahead of the same weekend last year.

There was more good news for Paramount chief Brad Grey and his lieutenants as Ghost Protocol in second place added $20.5m and took a confident stride towards the $200m mark. The action thriller has grossed $288m internationally and stands at $458m worldwide.

Warner Bros’ Sherlock Holmes sequel ranks third and stands at $157.4m after four weekends – the same amount of time that Ghost Protocol has been in release.

StudioCanal’s widely admired espionage drama Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – released in the US through film Focus Features – vaulted eight places up to number nine on $5.8m in its fifth weekend after expanding from 57 theatres to 809. The running total is $10.4m.

Casting a glance at other awards hopefuls, The Descendants is on $43.9m for Fox Searchlight after eight, Hugo stands at $52.6m for Paramount after seven, Young Adult is on $14.8m for Paramount after five, The Artist has amassed $7.1m for TWC after seven and the same distributor reports $10.4m for My Week With Marilyn after seven.

TWC’s The Iron Lady is bubbling away nicely on $516,00 after two weekends in a handful of theatres while Searchlight reports a $2.4m running total for Shame after six. In The Land Of Blood And Honey has grossed $90,200 for FilmDistrict after three and A Separation is on $202,000 through SPC after two. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close has taken $496,000 for Warner Bros after three.

Next weekend’s wide releases are Buena Vista’s animation Beauty And The Beast in 3D, Universal’s thriller Contraband directed by Baltasar Kormakur and starring Mark Wahlberg, Kate Beckinsale and Ben Foster and Warner Bros musical Joyful Noise.

Estimated Top 10 North America Jan 6-8 2012
Film (Dist) / Est wkd gross / Est total to date

1 (-) The Devil Inside (Paramount Insurge) PPI $34.5m

2 (1) Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Paramount) PPI $20.5m $170.2m

3 (2) Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows (Warner Bros) WBPI $14.1m $157.4m

4 (4) The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Sony) SPRI $11.3m $76.8m

5 (3) Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked (Fox) Fox Int’l $9.5m $111.6m

6 (5) War Horse (DreamWorks-Buena Vista) WDSMPI $8.6m $56.8m

7 (6) We Bought A Zoo (Fox) Fox Int’l $8.5m $56.5m

8 (7) The Adventures Of Tintin (Paramount) SPRI-PPI $6.6m $61.9m

9 (17) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Focus) UPI $5.8m $10.4m

10 (8) New Year’s Eve (Warner Bros-New Line) WBPI $3.3m $52m