“The Conjuring 2” should cast a powerful enough spell to ward off “sequelitis,” the phantom plague that is infecting Hollywood’s biggest franchises this summer.
The horror film is eyeing a debut of more than $35 million, which should be enough to keep the weekend’s other newcomers, “Warcraft” and “Now You See Me 2,” at bay. That’s below the first film’s $41 million opening, but still represents a solid result for Warner Bros., the studio behind the $40 million New Line production.
“The Conjuring 2” reunites director James Wan with Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson, who return as a husband and wife team of paranormal investigators. This time the duo travel across the pond to get the skinny on a haunted house just north of London. The time zone has changed, but the 1970s backdrop and Farmiga and Wilson’s disco-ready clothing remain. New Line will debut the film in 3,343 locations.
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There’s something far scarier than whatever is keeping real estate prices low in the English countryside. Studio executives’ collective blood pressure is rising as one major film series after another falters or falls flat. In relatively short order, pricey follow-ups such as “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” and “Alice Through the Looking Glass” have all stumbled or flopped at the box office. That’s bad news for an industry that has grown reliant on tentpole franchises to hold up their film slates, and its left some analysts and industry folk questioning whether or not the movie business is returning to the well too many times, leaving consumers hungry for originality.
“The Conjuring 2” will have some company as it battles this existential threat (which naysayers are calling a manufactured media narrative). It’s a problem also facing Lionsgate’s “Now You See Me 2.” The thriller about a team of illusionists brings back original gang members such as Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Mark Ruffalo, and adds Daniel Radcliffe to the mix. It cost more than $90 million to make and is looking at an opening of roughly $23 million (which is a drop from the $29 million debut of the first movie in 2013). “Now You See Me 2” will premiere across approximately 3,200 screens.
Then there’s “Warcraft.” Legendary and Universal’s video game adaptation has developed a reputation as a troubled production. Partly because its warrior creatures look like “Fraggle Rock” outcasts and partly due to its $160 million price tag. Despite the mixed buzz, foreign audiences have cottoned to the fantasy adventure. After three weeks of international release, “Warcraft” has racked up roughly $75 million internationally, and is resonating particularly strongly in countries such as Russia, France- and Germany.
It’s also looking like a monster in China, having generated $20 million in advance ticket sales prior to its Wednesday premiere. There is speculation that “Warcraft” could end its first five days in the People’s Republic with more than $100 million in receipts. That should go a long way towards cushioning the film from a mediocre domestic launch. “Warcraft” is eyeing a $25 million stateside debut when it opens across 3,396 North American theaters.
Though movie theater owners will no doubt be happy to see crowds show up for “The Conjuring 2” after a few rough weekends, true salvation won’t arrive until “Finding Dory” opens on June 17. Disney and Pixar’s animated follow-up to 2003’s “Finding Nemo” is projected to rack up more than $115 million when it premieres, washing Hollywood’s fears about “sequelitis” out to sea.