Last weekend proved the domestic box office is well on its way toward greater recovery as Paramount’s A Quiet Place Part II delivered a pandemic record opening that also happened to be in the ballpark of its own predecessor’s 2018 debut. In a quick turnaround off the holiday frame, Warner Bros. will go up directly against the well-received sequel with their own horror universe follow-up, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It.
Unlike the Quiet film, which is exclusive to theaters for 45 days, the latest Conjuring sequel is another hybrid release from Warner — going day-and-date in 3,102 domestic cinemas while also free to stream at home for HBO Max subscribers. It opens in 642 fewer than theaters than Quiet did last week. As if that weren’t enough to muddy the forecasting waters, Devil is going right after a very similar target audience while also competing with its own franchise’s potential fatigue.
Sure, The Conjuring 2 bowed to $40.4 million on opening weekend when it released in 2016. That film is technically the direct predecessor to this third film in the core series, but the franchise has spun off into three Annabelle films and The Nun between the preceding two parent chapters since 2013. (Correction: the original publication of this report also cited The Curse of La Llorona as part of the Conjuring franchise, a widely-if-incorrectly assumed connection even hinted at by Michael Chaves, director of both Llorona and the third Conjuring film. New Line Cinema, however, has asked us to clarify that Llorona is not officially considered part of The Conjuring Universe.)
The most recent, which briefly co-starred Conjuring‘s leads (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) showed minor signs of wear and tear on the brand when it opened to $31.1 million over five days and capped off at $74.1 million domestically. That was the lowest finish of the Conjuring universe
outside of Llorona, even trailing the original Annabelle‘s $84.3 million finish in 2014 (which did not have the marketing aid of the flagship films’ star actors).
These numbers are, of course, still healthy in the grand scheme of things for the horror genre — particularly when considering their budgets and overall global returns. What they suggest, however, is that a third Conjuring movie was probably always going to run up against diminished returns regardless of pandemic delays or not.
The latter point creates an “X” factor, though. Are audiences and/or fans so hungry for new theatrical content that pre-pandemic trends of declination won’t be relevant right now during the early weeks of summer recovery?
Social media metrics, trailer views, and pre-sales can only answer so much right now given the film’s hybrid release strategy. Perhaps some of the audience interested in this new chapter is only willing to watch it at home (again, possibly for free). Perhaps the fan base will be even more front-loaded in the advance ticket purchasing window than usual for the various reasons mentioned above — something that did come to fruition with Spiral last month when pre-release tracking overshot its box office ceiling (and that film was even exclusive to theaters).
Critics’ reviews are at 63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which is something of a genre-relative “pro” for Devil‘s outlook even if it’s trailing the 86 percent and 80 percent marks of the 2013 and 2016 editions, respectively. Likewise, as noted for Quiet last week, pre-sales for horror films are typically back-loaded closer to opening day and can often drive healthy walk-ups as date-night friendly options.
Giving the newest Conjuring film a run for its literal money this weekend will be the aforementioned Quiet Place sequel. Mid-week grosses for it and other films in the market have been stronger than expected, partly due to summer weekdays kicking in for those out of school and/or on summer vacations.
Combined with a wider swath of open theaters and more regular daily showtimes, that means Friday and Saturday increases for many films won’t be as high as had become common during the past nine months of the pandemic (which saw many theaters close or severely reduce weekday showtimes to account for a severe lack of foot traffic).
The first Quiet Place dropped just 34 percent in its sophomore frame back in April 2018 when Rampage and Truth or Dare opened against it. This sequel’s nature as a more front-loaded film, also coming off an inflated holiday weekend, means that figure probably won’t be useful or relevant as a metric this weekend. While the Conjuring film will steal 295 IMAX screens, Quiet will still have a fair premium screen format for at least one more week as it retains some of its own footprint and gains others from Cruella.
As for last week’s other summer kick-starter, Cruella doesn’t face near as stiff of competition to begin June, although it remains a wild card given premium available to Disney+ subscribers still. As mentioned, the film loses much of its premium footprint to the Conjuring and Quiet Place sequels this weekend, which may dent hard dollars more than actual attendance.
Not to be forgotten on the opening front, Universal Pictures will distribute Spirit Untamed at 3,211 locations this weekend. Based on the popular Netflix series, originating from the 2002 Oscar nominated Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron, pre-sales for Thursday shows have been more encouraging than expected and once again show how ready parents are to take their kids back to theaters. There may be an element of front-loading to consider here, but the film could modestly surprise with such a dearth of appealing content out there right now for families with young children.
In addition to all of these elements is the continued growth in sentiment among moviegoers to make their return to theaters. Last week’s great headlines and word of mouth for the industry could easily result in stronger-than-normal holds for post-Memorial Day weekend than we’re used to seeing if momentum builds quicker than projected.
Even if the openers bow on the lower end of expectations, though, it should be another banner frame that tops all prior pandemic box office weekends (excluding the Memorial frame) in total earnings.
This Weekend vs. Last Weekend
Boxoffice projects this weekend’s top ten films will decline 10 to 20 percent from last weekend’s three-day haul of $79.1 million, the standing pandemic record.
Opening Weekend Ranges
The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It: $15 – 25 million
Spirit Untamed: $5 – 9 million
|Film||Distributor||3-Day Weekend Forecast||Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, June 6||Location Count||% Change from Last Wknd|
|A Quiet Place Part II||Paramount Pictures||$22,000,000||$90,400,000||3,744||-54%|
|The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It||Warner Bros. Pictures||$19,200,000||$19,200,000||3,102||NEW|
|Cruella||Walt Disney Pictures||$11,700,000||$43,800,000||3,922||-46%|
|Spirit Untamed||Universal Pictures||$7,200,000||$7,200,000||3,211||NEW|
|Raya and the Last Dragon||Walt Disney Pictures||$1,400,000||$53,600,000||1,504||-40%|
|Wrath of Man||United Artists Releasing||$1,300,000||$24,700,000||2,007||-40%|
|Spiral: From the Book of Saw||Lionsgate||$1,100,000||$22,000,000||1,983||-50%|
|Godzilla vs. Kong||Warner Bros. Pictures||$525,000||$99,200,000||~1,100||-41%|
|Demon Slayer – Kimetsu no Yaiba – the Movie: Mugen Train||Funimation||$375,000||$47,300,000||~550||-55%|
|Dream Horse||Bleecker Street||$300,000||$2,400,000||646||-53%|
All forecasts subject to change before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or alternative sources.
Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studios.
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