‘Conjuring 3’ Scares Up $24 Million Debut

Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema’s The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It was the top movie at the domestic box office this weekend. The $39 million, R-rated horror sequel, again starring Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as Ed and Lorraine Warren but directed by Michael Chaves instead of James Wan, earned $24.01 million over the Fri-Sun frame. That was enough to best the $19.5 million (-59%) second-weekend gross of A Quiet Place part II.

The 2.4x weekend multiplier is on par with The Nun. Considering A) the downturn for Annabelle Comes Home and B) the fact that The Nun, the biggest global grosser in the franchise, wasn’t exactly beloved by critics or audiences, an opening closer to $25 million than $40 million isn’t a surprise. That launch is 40% lower than the $40 million debuts of the first two Conjuring movies. It’s around 1/3 lower than the $35 million debuts of the first two Annabelle movies.

Nobody was expecting anything close to the $54 million launch of The Nun but this is actually pretty close to the $20 million Fri-Sun/$31 million Wed-Sun debut of Annabelle Comes Home and the $26 million launch of The Curse of La Llorona (which WB doesn’t consider a Conjuring Universe flick). Way back when the film was dated for September 11, 2020, I would argue that this threequel was likely to open closer to $30 million than $40 million.

This feels like a “business as usual” debut had the $39 million, R-rated threequel “disappointed” in conventional times. With mixed-positive reviews and a B+ from CinemaScore, the “available on HBO Max for the first 31 days” variable obviously bit into grosses. While this is the first official Conjuring movie since summer 2016, since that time there have been two Annabelle movies, The Nun and The Curse of La Llorona (which arguably “counts” to a number of general audiences).

Or maybe it’s just the standard franchise downturn. The Saw series peaked with Saw II and Saw III, and the Paranormal Activity films peaked with their first two sequels as well. A $24 million domestic debut arguably makes this chiller, featuring the Warrens attempting to prove a murder defendant’s claim of demonic possession, a “successful disappointment.” Even if you argue the legs will be short for this “available on HBO Max” offering, The Nun ($117 million from a $54 million debut), The Curse of La Llorona ($56 million/$26 million) and Annabelle ($84 million/$37 million) barely doubled their domestic debuts.

That would give Conjuring 3 around $48 million. A run like Annabelle Creation ($102 million/$35 million) or Conjuring 2 ($103 million/$40 million) would give it a finish between $62 million and $71 million. However, every sequel/spin-off earned 2/3 of their respective grosses overseas (where HBO Max does not yet exist). The outlier (again, knowing New Line doesn’t “count it’) was La Llorona, which earned 44% of its $121 million cume in North America. The Nun earned 69% of its $366 million cume outside of North America.

We’re probably looking at a domestic total between $52 million and $71 million, with a resulting global total between $118 million and $229 million worldwide. Even a run like Conjuring 2 gives it $62 million domestic and $193 million worldwide. My “gut” says a 2x multiplier (like Mortal Kombat) and a 40/60 split (partially due to Covid-specific overseas challenges) for a $123 million cume. That would be on par with Llorona but still triple the $39 million budget. Again, the point of using horror movies as theatrical guinea pigs is that they didn’t have to break records to break even.

The only other wide opener was DreamWorks Animation’s Spirit Untamed. The theatrical offshoot (not a sequel or direct spin-off) from both the 2002 Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and the Emmy-winning Spirit: Riding Free episodic is a curious case for straight theatrical. Even Pixar films like Luca and big DWA sequels like Boss Baby: Family Business are either going straight to streaming or getting concurrent theatrical/streaming debuts.

Nonetheless, the $30 million toon is both small in scale and scope for a DreamWorks theatrical and much more polished (and vocally star-packed) than your standard direct-to-VOD or direct-to-streaming IP expansion. Elaine Bogan’s directorial debut is a perfectly decent entertainment for its targeted demographics. It also boasts a cast including Isabela Merced, Eiza González, Julianne Moore, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mckenna Grace, Andre Braugher, Marsai Martin and Walton Goggins.

The film earned $6.2 million weekend, which is a frontloaded (for a toon) 2.5x weekend multiplier. That’s not “good,” but it’s better than I expected and close to the $8.7 million debut of Raya and the Last Dragon. I can’t imagine this film opening all that much better even in pre-Covid circumstances. That’s not a slam, but animated films sans franchise and marquee characters just aren’t the theatrical draw they were in a time before endless at-home streaming options. That’s why Scoob! went straight to HBO Max and why Sony sold Mitchells Vs. the Machines to Netflix. 

Let’s see if it gets legs anywhere near as long as The Croods: A New Age ($58 million from a $9.7 million Fri-Sun/$14.2 million Wed-Sun debut) or Raya ($53 million/$8.7 million which would give it an over/under $40 million domestic finish. Either way, I’d guess Universal expects to make most of its money for this one via PVOD and/or from wherever it goes after theaters and VOD/DVD.

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