"We screened the movie at night. And the priest blessed people if they wanted," said Paramount's Josh Greenstein. "He also was available after the movie to answer any questions about exorcisms." Clips of that screening were used in a trailer for the film, which focused on the audience reactions.
"[The Church] was rented for a midnight screening," Dr. Arden Albee, the church's administrator, confirmed to Moviefone. "The young man who I had serving has my rep there couldn't stand it and left [...] As far as I know, no member has seen it, so there's been no response [to the screening]."
Either way, from the studio's point of view, the stunt may have paid off. Despite the widespread negative reviews for "The Devil Inside," the movie became a surprise hit at the box office over the weekend, grossing $33.7 million -- pretty impressive for a film with a $1 million production budget.
As THR states, Paramount did not reveal the actual name of the priest who blessed people (his face was blurred out in the trailer as well), leading some here at Moviefone HQ to wonder whether he actually was a priest. After all, Moviefone's Mike Ryan pointed out that several people dressed as clergymen showed up before a "Devil Inside" screening last week to address audience beforehand.
"I wouldn't have a clue [if there was an actual priest there]" Arden said, chuckling. "I wasn't there, I was only around during the set-up."
Either way, if a priest did did endorse the movie, he couldn't have been cool with the abrupt ending, which caused some crowds to boo loudly and demand refunds.
"The Devil Inside" is out in theaters now.