“The Nun” (Warner Bros.), the fifth film in the “Conjuring”/”Annabelle” franchise, opened to a way-over-estimate $53.5 million. That’s the best debut in the series’ history, even adjusted for inflation(the first “Annabelle” grossed $49 million), and just ahead of “A Quiet Place” to be the best opening for a horror movie this year.
The weekend after Labor Day often ranks at or near the bottom of any given year. That changed it 2017, when Warner Bros. opened “It” to $123 million, and this gross tops anything from January, March, or even August of this year.
“It” appears to have changed the calendar for good (the sequel opens this date next year). That means this weekend’s gross dropped less less than it has in the past — although, because “It” was so strong last year, it was still down 28 percent) — but the number still stands out on its own. Three weeks ago, when “Crazy Rich Asians” grossed $25 million ($32 million for its first five days), it was celebrated rightly as a breakthrough gross. This number (for the weekend) is double that. “It” was bigger than “The Meg,” “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again,” and “Ocean’s 8,” among other successful recent releases.
How could this happen? Timing, apart from a wide open weekend, is key. “A Quiet Place” was the last big horror entry. “Hereditary” (which, like “The Nun,” was rated R) did well for an independent film, but its total take was still less than this opening. That’s a dry spell from one of the most consistent genres out there.
Two specific elements aided its cause. The series has a good degree of credibility with consecutive entries, sustaining above-average interest despite normal downturns. Last year’s “Annabelle: Creation” achieved something highly unusual for horror sequels: It nearly tripled its opening weekend gross, a surefire sign of highly positive audience reaction.
But add its title and it gives an existing popular franchise a new life — and it’s not just domestic. International openings in 60 territories (France, Japan, and Russia among those to come, with China not likely) came to $77 million. This for a film that had a production budget of just $22 million.
Warner Bros. has held the #1 spot for five weeks, and the top two for four, apparently the first time for a single distributor doing that in over a quarter century. And they’ve done it with three diverse films (“Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Meg,” and this). Throw in “Ready Player One” and “Ocean’s 8” earlier this year, and it’s very impressive for a studio that hasn’t had the franchise tentpoles that Disney and Universal have scored with.
Courtesy of STXfilms
“Peppermint” (STX) was the other wide opening. At $13 million, credit Jennifer Garner for bringing attention to this poorly reviewed female “Death Wish” vigilante story. It’s a modern hybrid production: a leading French action director (Pierre Morel, “Taken”), substantial Chinese financing (STX’s regular partner Huayi Brothers), an American star and setting. Perhaps the most significant element is the female twist to the story, showing an increased international interest in variations from the male-centered norm. Most foreign dates are ahead, but a likely $30-35 million domestic haul will give it a shot at eventual profit.
Ahead of “Peppermint” at #2, after three weeks at the top, is the year’s biggest comedy. Its 38 percent drop was the same as the similar performing “The Help” during its post-Labor Day weekend. That was a week later in its run, and saw it in adjusted gross at $160 million by that point. “Crazy” continues on track to easily reach that level and push some distance beyond. The trajectory looks to get it to somewhere in the $180-190 million level, while reaching the $198 million where “The Help” ended (adjusted) remains a smaller possibility.
“The Meg” dropped more (42 percent), still respectable off a holiday three-day total. Though it will end up slightly below “Crazy” in domestic take, its worldwide gross of nearly $500 million will be far bigger. At $130 million in initial budget, Warners is happy to see that result.
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout” (Paramount) looks to top $800 million worldwide now that it has opened in China. That’s ahead of “Rogue Nation” (which it will also top adjusted domestically). It fell out of the top four for the first time in its seven-week run.
“Searching” (Sony) in its third week, expanding once again (now at 2,009 theaters), seems to be working as the studio hoped: smaller-than-usual marketing, build from a limited scale to keep word of mouth propelling it. The theater average was only about half of last weekend with 800+ more theaters, but the performance is strong enough for the film to sustain a couple more weeks at most theaters. That a studio is handling a Sundance-premiered film, much less eight months after the festival, is unusual. That they seem to be making it work is more significant. International starts up next week.
The Top Ten
1. The Nun (Warner Bros.) – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 46; Est. budget: $22 million
$53,500,000 in 3,876 theaters; PTA (per theater average): $13,803; Cumulative: $53,500,000
2. Crazy Rich Asians (Warner Bros.) Week 4; Last weekend: #1
$13,600,000 (-38%) in 3,865 theaters (no change); PTA: $3,519; Cumulative: $136,222,000
3. Peppermint (STX) – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 29; Est. budget: $25 million
$13,260,000 in 2,980 theaters; PTA: $4,450; Cumulative: $13,260,000
4. The Meg (Warner Bros.) Week 5; Last weekend: #2
$6,030,000 (-43%) in 3,511 theaters (-250); PTA: $1,717; Cumulative: $1,31,573,000
5. Searching (Sony) Week 3; Last weekend: #4
$4,515,000 (-26%) in 2,009 theaters (+802); PTA: $2,247; Cumulative: $14,311,000
6. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Paramount) Week 7; Last weekend: #3
$3,800,000 (-46%) in 2,334 theaters (-305); PTA: $1,628; Cumulative: $212,117,000
7. Christopher Robin (Disney) Week 6; Last weekend: #5
$3,196,000 (-39%) in 2,518 theaters (-407); PTA: $1,269; Cumulative: $91,725,000
8. Operation Finale (MGM) Week 2; Last weekend: #6
$3,043,000 (-49%) in 1,818 theaters (no change); PTA: $1,674; Cumulative: $14,107,000
9. Alpha (Sony) Week 4; Last weekend: #7
$2,505,000 (-45%) in 2,521 theaters (-360); PTA: $994; Cumulative: $32,448,000
10. BlacKkKlansman (Focus) Week 5; Last weekend: #9
$1,565,000 (-63%) in 1,547 theaters (-219); PTA: $1,012; Cumulative: $43,455,000