Warner Bros. Discovery and New Line Cinema’s”The Nun II” began its domestic box office run with a promising $3.1 million in Thursday previews. That compares to the $5.4 million Thursday preview gross of “The Nun” in September of 2018, the $4 million Thursday gross for “Annabelle: Creation” in August of 2017 and the $3.4 million preview earnings for “The Conjuring 2” in June of 2016.
Considering a stronger critical response (53% fresh versus 24% for the first “Nun” on Rotten Tomatoes) and the relative lack of big-deal horror movies over the last several months, all signs point to another strong $25-$35 million opening weekend for Hollywood’s most successful post-“Avengers” cinematic universe.
Since James Wan’s first “The Conjuring” in July of 2013, the R-rated, religious horror franchise has earned over $2.1 billion worldwide on a combined budget of $180 million. It’s the one unmitigated success in terms of Hollywood trying to build their own interconnected cinematic universes in the aftermath of “The Avengers” earning $1.5 billion in the summer of 2012.
However, like the MCU, which didn’t announce its long-term plans until after “Iron Man” opened to fortune and glory, “The Conjuring” began as a single stand-alone crowdpleaser. And like the MCU, the “Conjuring” universe has walked the line between interconnectivity and stand-alone cinema.
Sure, it helps to remember what happened in “Annabelle: Creation” before walking into “Annabelle Comes Home,” but it’s not a requirement. And audiences certainly won’t have to have seen “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” to enjoy “The Nun II.” Moreover, to the extent these films remain one of Warner Bros.’ most bankable franchises, they are relatively unique in the marketplace. The three “Conjuring” films, the “Annabelle” trilogy, the two “Nun” movies and the loosely connected “The Curse of La Llorona” are R-rated but not gore-drenched slow-burn horror flicks that implicitly but not explicitly play to faith-based audiences.
They are appealing to audiences because of what they are, with the interconnectivity being a bonus. If this latest chapter, directed by Michael Chaves and penned by Ian Goldberg, Richard Naing and Akela Cooper (who wrote or co-wrote “Hellfest,” “Malignant” and “M3gan”), plays as expected, WBD can expect an opening between the $24 million launch (amid Project Popcorn) of “The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It” in 2021 and the $35 million debut of “Annabelle: Creation” in August of 2017.
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