No one saw it coming: a $19 million half-horror/half-courtroom drama, stocked with high-calibre indie actors but not a single bankable star, The Exorcism of Emily Rose somehow made $30 million its opening weekend. With few major genre contenders on the horizon, its gross will probably come close to $100 million, even after a 50% second-week dropoff. So how did it do it? According to Kate Kelly of the Wall Street Journal, Screen Gems made an unusual gamble (or, at least, unusual for a Hollywood horror film) when it targeted religious conservatives. They conducted an online poll which found that 66% of respondants believed in the possibility of real-life demonic possession; they reprinted actual articles about the Church's views on Satanism and exorcism in newsletter format; and, they offered religious publications ample opportunities to interview churchgoing director Scott Derrickson.

It's a genius move, when you consider that most horror films can count on a built-in opening weekend teen audience in order to pull a return; tap into one additional market, and suddenly a minor hit turns looks like a phenomenon. So more than a surprise indie success, Emily Rose became the latest in a string of films to prove that there is an audience for films that take matters of faith seriously. But it's also sort of groundbreaking, in that, unlike a film like The Passion of the Christ, The Exorcism of Emily Rose shows that you can feed the religious audience without knee-jerk turning off secular genre fans.