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Box Office: ‘The Nun’ to Conjure Huge $40 Million-Plus Debut

As the summer movie season officially came to a close, a pair of darker titles are hoping to terrorize the domestic box office this weekend.

Estimates show “The Nun,” the fifth installment in “The Conjuring” series, launching with $36 million to $45 million when it debuts in over 2,850 locations. Some tracking suggests that’s too modest, and the film could make well over $50 million during its opening weekend. That would be a monstrously good start considering the low price tag typically attached to horror flicks. Buzz already seems strong as “The Nun” is currently outpacing all previous “Conjuring” movies combined in Fandango’s presales, the ticketing service reported on Wednesday. According to Fandango, it is also dominating previous horror hits “Get Out” and “A Quiet Place” in advanced sales at the same point in those film’s sales cycles.

If “The Nun” is able to reach the higher end of projections, it would rank as a franchise-best debut. The first installment, 2013’s “The Conjuring,” currently holds that title with a $41.8 million opening. The first four movies in Warner Bros.’ “Conjuring” franchise — “The Conjuring,” “Annabelle,” “The Conjuring 2,” and “Annabelle: Creation” — have generated over $1.1 billion globally.

“The Nun” is a spinoff of “The Conjuring 2.” It’s set in Romania in 1951 and stars Demian Bichir and Taissa Farmiga as a Catholic priest and a novice who are sent to the Vatican to investigate the mysterious suicide of a nun. Gary Dauberman, who previously wrote “Annabelle,” “Annabelle: Creation,” and “It,” penned the script, which was directed by Corin Hardy.

A mid-$30 million bow should easily be enough to top the North American box office. If that’s the case, it will be the fifth weekend in a row that Warner Bros. has dominated multiplexes. “The Meg,” the studio’s big-budget shark thriller, launched well over expectations to secure the crown at the beginning of August, while acclaimed romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” has maintained its reign at No. 1 over the past three weekends.

Meanwhile, STX and Lakeshore Entertainment are banking on audiences having a ravenous appetite for thrills. The studio anticipates that “Peppermint,” an R-rated action thriller starring Jennifer Garner, will generate between $10 million and $15 million at 2,800 locations.

Garner returns to form as an action star in the genre that catapulted her to stardom. In “Peppermint,” Garner plays vigilante after her husband and young daughter are suddenly gunned down and killed. Before stepping behind the camera for “Peppermint,” director Pierre Morel previously helmed the highly successful “Taken” franchise with Liam Neeson. The studio envisions “Peppermint” as a continuation of “Taken,” but with a female protagonist. Chad St. John (“London Has Fallen”) wrote the script.

STX’s last venture, “The Happytime Murders” with Melissa McCarthy, majorly whiffed. The bawdy R-rated comedy opened with $9 million (the lowest start for a McCarthy film) and has picked up $18 million to date. It seems unlikely the $40 million film will end up in the black.

The final new entry is a faith-based drama that could serve as counter-programming against the darker R-rated titles. “God Bless the Broken Road,” based on the hit Rascal Flatts song, is aiming for a single-digit debut around $3 million. It tells the story of a young mother who loses her husband in Afghanistan and is left to raise their young daughter. The cast includes “American Idol” alum Jordin Sparks, Robin Givens, Lindsay Pulsipher, and former NFL player LaDainian Tomlinson.

Last March, another Christian drama based on a popular song, “I Can Only Imagine,” far exceeded expectations. The Lionsgate and Roadside Attraction film grossed $85 million worldwide against a $7 million price tag.

This weekend will prove no match for the same frame last September when Andy Muschietti’s “It” surprised with a massive $123 million debut. Warner Bros. and New Line’s record-shattering hit went on to earn over $700 million worldwide. A sequel, “It: Chapter 2,” is currently in the works.

Summer movie season fielded a number of overperforming hits, including “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” putting the box office 9.9% ahead of last year, according to comScore.

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