Hollywood is pinning its hopes on a demon-possessed doll as it looks to shake off the late-summer doldrums. “Annabelle: Creation,” the latest installment in the “Conjuring” cinematic universe, opened to $4 million in Thursday pre-shows. Box office sages predict that the horror film will pull in roughly $25 million this weekend.
That makes the film a shrewd bet for Warner Bros. and New Line, which spent an economical $15 million to put a frightening spin on children’s toys. It is, however, a significant drop-off from the openings of other films in the series. The first “Annabelle” kicked off to $37.1 million, while “The Conjuring” and “The Conjuring 2” premiered to $41.9 million and $40.4 million, respectively.
David F. Sandberg directed the prequel about a dollmaker whose creation terrorizes a group of orphan girls. The cast includes Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman, Anthony LaPaglia, and Miranda Otto. Reviews have generally been favorable, which should help the latest “Annabelle” push last weekend’s winner, Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower,” off of its first place perch.
Its main competition for the box office crown will likely come from Open Road’s animated sequel “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature,” which is debuting in 4,003 locations. The story of a group of animals who attempt to save their home from being bulldozed and turned into an amusement park, is aiming to make about $15 million. That’s slightly below the first “Nut Job” movie, which opened to $19.4 million before going on to take in $120.9 million worldwide during its run. “The Nut Job 2” picked up $330,000 in previews on Thursday.
Earlier this week, Open Road announced that it was being sold to Tang Media Partners for an undisclosed price. It was previously owned by AMC and Regal, the country’s two biggest theater chains. Its credits include “Spotlight” and “Nightcrawler.”
Lionsgate”s “The Glass Castle,” an adaptation of Jeannette Walls’ popular 2005 memoir, will also try to connect with audiences this weekend. So far, the pitch isn’t working, with the drama on track for a soft opening of $5 million. The drama reunites Brie Larson with “Short Term 12” director Destin Daniel Cretton.
It’s been a brutal summer for Hollywood. Though films such as “Wonder Woman” and “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” have scored with audiences, flops such as “King Arthur” and “Transformers: The Last Knight” have dragged down ticket sales. Revenues this summer are down 10% year-over-year. Perhaps “Annabelle: Creation” and another “Nut Job” can close some of the gap.