Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema’s The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It was the top movie at the domestic box office on Friday. 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 $9.84 million on day one, easily topping the (estimated) $6 million second-Friday gross of A Quiet Place Part II. This sets the stage for a likely $24-$26 million opening weekend.
The film earned mixed-positive reviews and a B+ from Cinemascore, while the whole “available on HBO Max for the first 31 days” variable obviously played a part. Under normal circumstances, a debut essentially 35% below the $41 million launch of The Conjuring in 2013 and the $40 million debut of The Conjuring 2 in 2016 would be slightly disappointing. Even absent Covid-specific variables, it wouldn’t automatically be a surprise.
Annabelle Comes Home, which also prominently featured the stars of the Conjuring films, opened with “just” $20 million over the Fri-Sun portion of a $31 million Wed-Sun debut frame in summer 2019. That was indeed well below the over/under $35 million debuts in 2014 and 2017 of the previous Annabelle movies and the $55 million launch of The Nun in 2018. That The Nun was both the biggest global grosser of the franchise ($366 million) and arguably the worst film in the series probably didn’t help, as it’s possible that Annabelle Comes Home (my favorite of the bunch) suffered as a result.
So, yeah, it’s another “Saw VI bombs because Saw V was terrible” circumstance. To be fair, Annabelle 3 didn’t bomb, grossing $74 million domestic and $228 million global on a $27 million budget. Even before Covid, back when The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It was set to open on September 11, 2020, it was possible (I would argue “likely”) that the film might have opened closer to $25-$30 million than $35-$40 million.
Sure, it’s the first “official” Conjuring movie in the Conjuring Universe in five years, but A) five years is a long time between sequels and B) there have been three spin-offs (four if you count Chaves’ La Llorona, which many consumers arguably do) between September 2017 and June 2019. A $26 million domestic debut arguably makes this chiller, featuring the Warrens attempting to prove a murder defendant’s claim of demonic possession, a “successful disappointment.” The opening is, give or take, about what it would have nabbed had it “underwhelmed” in non-Covid circumstances.
Every sequel/spin-off earned 2/3 of their respective grosses overseas. A multiplier on par with The Nun ($117 million from a $54 million debut) or Annabelle ($84 million/$37 million) would give The Devil Made Me Do It an $55-$60 million domestic finish, with a standard (overseas closures notwithstanding at the moment) 35/65 split giving it $160-$165 million global.
A multiplier like Conjuring 2 ($103 million/$40 million) would give it $67 million domestic, with a 35/65 split giving it over/under $191 million worldwide. Neither would be superlative, but both would be “good enough” on a $39 million budget. Even a run like Llorona (2x domestic multiplier and 44% domestic) gives the film $113 million worldwide. 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 Cimmaron 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 and boasts a cast including Isabela Merced, Eiza González, Julianne Moore, Jake Gyllenhaal, Mckenna Grace, Andre Braugher, Marsai Martin and Walton Goggins.
The film earned $2.42 million yesterday for a likely over/under $7 million weekend. 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.