It was slammed by US flick fans and initially hidden from UK critics, but The Devil Inside's tale of exorcism has proved an instant hit at the box office
The winnerIt enjoys a measly 7% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and scored 18/100 at Metacritic.
When it opened in the US, it suffered the rare ignominy of being rated F by flick fans measured by market research firm CinemaScore.
In the UK, it avoided the slings and arrows of newspaper critics by the simple expedient of not screening to them until the day of release.
But none of this mattered too much at the box office, with exorcism horror The Devil Inside (rumoured production budget: £630,000) dethroning John Carter (rumoured production budget: £158m) from the chart summit.
With a decent £1.99m opening, this was enough to land it more than £400,000 ahead of action comedy 21 Jump Street.
Genre flicks traditionally see a front-loaded skew, and none more than horror, so it's perhaps no surprise to see Friday deliver The Devil Inside's best result, with a noticeable drop on Saturday, and then a steep fall on Sunday.
The declining revenue curve day by day does not exactly augur well for a long, strong run for the film.
In the US, the picture opened with $33.7m (£21.2m), but has only achieved $53.2m in total after an absurdly rapid burnout.
It is highly unusual for a flick to gross less than double its opening – even the latter Saw flicks just about managed it.
The rival newbiesLanding in second place, 21 Jump Street opened with a solid £1.56m, behind the pace of its concurrent US debut of $36m.
The number is an improvement on star Jonah Hill's most recent comedy opening, The Sitter (£910,000).
Get Him to the Greek, which paired him with Russell Brand, debuted in June 2010 with £1.57m, including £495,000 in previews. 21 Jump Street co-star Channing Tatum is not known for comedy.
His recent romantic drama, The Vow, opened with £1.09m five weeks ago.
Also landing in the top 10 are Mark Wahlberg thriller Contraband and Matt Damon family drama We Bought a Zoo.
Both were always going to struggle to match The Devil Inside and 21 Jump Street, which had more clearly defined audiences.
We Bought a Zoo, a family flick that's targeted at parents rather than children, represents a distribution challenge, although it's one that, say, War Horse recently overcame (£18.57m to date).
Wahlberg's last film, The Fighter, kicked off its impressive run with £2.19m including previews of £463,000, compared to £684,000 for Contraband.
The immovable objectWith a slim decline of just 14% from the previous weekend, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel continues to defy gravity.
John Madden's expat comedy did particularly well on 18 March, when it was the top flick in the market by an impressive margin of £80,000.
Takings on that day rose by a whopping 35% from the previous Sunday, which had been hit by unseasonally sunny weather.
Although it has been the top flick on only one of its four weekends of release so far, its day-by-day numbers tell a different story, partly thanks to stellar results midweek.
In fact, Marigold Hotel has been the top title on no fewer than 18 of its 24 days of release to date.
Its cumulative total of £13.86m compares with £12.65m for Calendar Girls at the same stage of its run, putting Marigold Hotel on a trajectory to reach £22m.
Investors including Fox Searchlight and Participant Media would no doubt be delighted with anything above £20m.
The arthouse battleWith £90,600 from 47 screens, Agnieszka Holland's Oscar-nominated In Darkness was the top new arthouse title, but its ambitiously wide rollout left its site average looking a tad lacklustre.
Meanwhile Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Cannes prizewinner Once Upon a Time in Anatolia scored an impressive £35,100 from just 14 venues – the best ever opening here for the Turkish director.
Metrodome's strategy for In Darkness was to target mainstream Polish audiences alongside the traditional arthouse sector, placing the Lvov-set second world war drama in some of the multiplex venues that have worked in the past year for hits such as Polish Roulette and Battle of Warsaw, 1920.
Results were encouraging.
Although the top five engagements for In Darkness are all arthouse cinemas, led by London's Everyman Belsize Park, the story changes when you look at the bottom half of the film's top 10 sites, including Cineworlds in Aberdeen and London's Hammersmith, Finchley and Wood Green.
The flick might have done even better in those locations had it not faced competition from new Polish comedy Kac Wawa (Warsaw Hangover).
Top sites for the latter were Cineworld Hammersmith and Wood Green, traditionally the strongest UK venues for a mainstream Polish language film.
Anatolia's number compares with previous Ceylan titles: £26,500 from eight screens for 2006's Climates; £16,700 from six for 2002's Uzak (Distant); and £14,500 from five for 2010's Three Monkeys.
Anatolia represents the biggest ever opening for niche distributor New Wave Films, whose previous best was Le Quattro Volte.
Reviews, including five-star raves in the Guardian and Time Out, were a crucial factor.
The losersPredictably, the previous weekend's under-performing titles fell hard and fast, with The Raven crashing from eighth to 16th place thanks to a box-office drop of 80%.
Bel Ami did a tiny bit better, falling from ninth to 15th with a 71% drop.
Sean Bean actioner Cleanskin lost the vast majority of its initial 102 screens, a major factor in its plummeting box office, down a painful 97%.
Better things are hoped for the DVD release.
The futureThe weekend overall comes 38th in rankings of the past 52 frames – mid-table respectability at best.
Takings are up an impressive 37% on the equivalent period from 2011, however, when Chalet Girl, Anuvahood and The Lincoln Lawyer were the top new titles, and Rango was the only flick in the market achieving a weekend tally of £1m.
Cinemas are now braced for the arrival on Friday of The Hunger Games, based on Suzanne Collins's young-adult bestseller, adroitly positioned by backers Lionsgate as "the next Twilight".
Other distributors are running scared, with no major Hollywood competition.
Instead, Act of Valour, starring real-life US marines, delivers macho action, and actor Dexter Fletcher's directorial debut Wild Bill is a British alternative.
The Bollywood audience is being offered Agent Vinod, starring Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor, and arthouse fans are being treated with the Dardenne brothers' The Kid with a Bike.
Top 10 films1.
The Devil Inside, £1,988,461 from 377 sites (New)
2. 21 Jump Street, £1,556,039 from 389 sites (New)
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, £1,530,112 from 479 sites.
John Carter, £965,946 from 452 sites.
We Bought a Zoo, £850,651 from 428 sites (New)
Contraband, £683,654 from 412 sites (New)
The Woman in Black, £544,636 from 384 sites.
This Means War, £431,648 from 321 sites.
The Muppets, £395,549 from 481 sites.
Safe House, £268,288 from 282 sites.
Other openersIn Darkness, £90,558 from 47 sites
Kac Wawa, 42 sites, £41,274
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, 14 sites, £35,117
Bill Cunningham New York, five sites, £9,979 (+ £3,197 previews)
The Other Side of Sleep, three sites, £1,375
How to Re-establish a Vodka Empire, three sites £844
Booked Out, one site £223
Film industryHorrorCharles Gantguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies.
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