'The Last Exorcism' proved a demon at the box office this weekend, though the gang of thieves from 'Takers' may end up stealing 'Exorcism's' crown. Both movies were neck and neck after Sunday's studio estimates were released, with just $300,000 worth of space between them. When final numbers are released Monday, it could be 'Takers' that's on top. (UPDATE: Sure enough, final figures released Monday saw the rankings reversed, with 'Takers' edging out 'Last Exorcism' for the win. More after the jump.)

Both films performed better than expected. 'Exorcism,' the week's only real option for horror fans, opened with an estimated $21.3 million on 2,874 screens. Lionsgate reportedly acquired the low-budget, star-free film for less than $1 million and spent another $16 million on prints and advertising, so the movie has already grossed more than Lionsgate invested in it. The film's apparent victory marks the third straight week at No. 1 for the independent studio, after its 'The Expendables' spent two weeks on top.

'Takers' took second with an opening estimated at $21 million from 2,206 locations. The heist drama also performed better than expected, with Sony's polling determining that the audience was evenly split between men and women, and between viewers over and under 25. It had the best per-screen average of any movie this week at $9,519, meaning that if it had been playing on just 32 more screens, it would have beaten 'Exorcism.' (And if the numbers fluctuate enough by the time final results are in Monday, it still could.)

'The Last Exorcism' proved a demon at the box office this weekend, though the gang of thieves from 'Takers' may end up stealing 'Exorcism's' crown. Both movies were neck and neck after Sunday's studio estimates were released, with just $300,000 worth of space between them. When final numbers are released Monday, it could be 'Takers' that's on top. (UPDATE: Sure enough, final figures released Monday saw the rankings reversed, with 'Takers' edging out 'Last Exorcism' for the win. More after the jump.)

Both films performed better than expected. 'Exorcism,' the week's only real option for horror fans, opened with an estimated $21.3 million on 2,874 screens. Lionsgate reportedly acquired the low-budget, star-free film for less than $1 million and spent another $16 million on prints and advertising, so the movie has already grossed more than Lionsgate invested in it. The film's apparent victory marks the third straight week at No. 1 for the independent studio, after its 'The Expendables' spent two weeks on top.

'Takers' took second with an opening estimated at $21 million from 2,206 locations. The heist drama also performed better than expected, with Sony's polling determining that the audience was evenly split between men and women, and between viewers over and under 25. It had the best per-screen average of any movie this week at $9,519, meaning that if it had been playing on just 32 more screens, it would have beaten 'Exorcism.' (And if the numbers fluctuate enough by the time final results are in Monday, it still could.)

Sylvester Stallone in 'The Expendables''Expendables' fell to third place with a modest 44 percent drop to $9.5 million. In three weeks, the Sylvester Stallone action spectacle has earned $82 million.

'Eat Pray Love' is also holding up well. The Julia Roberts travelogue dropped just 42 percent in its third week to $7 million, good for a fourth-place finish and a total so far of $60.7 million.

"The Other Guys' held onto the No. 5 slot with a $6.6 million take, a drop of just 35 percent in its fourth week. The Will Ferrell comedy's total fell less than $700,000 shy of the $100 million mark. It's also the third Sony movie (after 'Takers' and 'Eat Pray Love') in this week's top five.

The much-touted 'Avatar: Special Edition' re-release, with nine new minutes of footage added to the version seen in theaters last winter, scored a solid $4 million on 812 screens, finishing in 12th place. Thanks to IMAX and 3-D surcharges, it earned an average of $4,916 per venue, better than any wide release except for the two newcomers that topped this week's chart.

UPDATE: According to the Hollywood Reporter, Monday's revised final figures reversed the order of the top two, giving 'Takers' an even slighter edge than 'Last Exorcism' had yesterday. As if that weren't enough drama, the reporting of the figures was delayed by a hurricane watch in Puerto Rico, where receipts failed to maintain 'Exorcism's' edge. When the dust cleared, 'Takers' was ahead $20.5 million to $20.4 million, with a difference of just $146,000. The chart below reflects the revised numbers.

The full top 10:
1. 'Takers,' $20.5 million (2,206 screens), new release
2. 'The Last Exorcism,' $20.4 million (2,874), new release
3. 'The Expendables,' $9.5 million (3,398), $82.0 million total
4. 'Eat Pray Love,' $6.8 million (3,108), $60.5 million
5. 'The Other Guys,' $6.3 million (3,181 screens), $99.0 million
6. 'Vampires Suck,' $5.2 million (3,233), $27.8 million
7. 'Inception,' $4.9 million (2,070), $270.5 million
8. 'Nanny McPhee Returns,' $4.7 million (2,798), $17.0 million
9. 'The Switch,' $4.6 million (2,017), $16.4 million
10. 'Piranha 3D,' $4.3 million (2,491), $18.3 million

Top 10 movies of summer 2010:
1. 'Toy Story 3,' $405.7 million
2. 'Iron Man 2,' $312.1 million
3. 'The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,' $298.0 million
4. 'Inception,' $270.5 million
5. 'Shrek Forever After,' $238.0 million
6. 'Despicable Me,' $236.1 million
7. 'The Karate Kid,' $175.5 million
8. 'Grown Ups,' $159.1 million
9. 'The Last Airbender,' $130.6 million
10. 'Salt,' $113.3 million

•Follow Gary Susman on Twitter @garysusman.