A new film based on a real-life exorcism has scared up a small fortune at the American box office and taken over at the top.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose has crashed in at number one with a staggering $30.2 million (GBP16.8 million) in its opening weekend.

The film, starring Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson, wasn't expected to do well at the box office this weekend (09-11SEP05) because experts felt film fans would be looking for lighter fare to take their minds off the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.

But the movie knocked British action man Jason Statham's THE TRANSPORTER sequel off the top of the box office charts.

Another summer cinema surprise, THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, continues to impress - the sleeper hit's fourth week tally of $7.9 million (GBP4.4 million) was enough to keep it in second place with an overall take of $82.3 million (GBP46.3 million).

The Transporter 2 slips to third, while Ralph Fiennes' espionage thriller The Constant Gardener and Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm make up fourth and fifth place respectively on the new list.

The only other new entry in the top 10 is Samuel L Jackson's panned comedy The Man, which debuts at six with a disappointing $4 million (GBP2.2 million) opening.