“Annabelle: Creation” Hopes to Scare Off the Summertime Franchise Blues

the box office-2

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Annabelle: Creation

$33.7 million

Dunkirk 

 $11 million

The Nut Job 2

$9.4 million

The Dark Tower

$8.6 million

Girls Trip

$7.3 million

After last weekend, the only way things can go is up — or at least that’s what theater owners are hoping, because it’ll be bad for business if the summer box office continues to tank as badly as it has the last few weekends.

annabelle boxoffice
Warner Bros.

This has been such a terrible summer for franchises and sequels in particular, so one wonders whether it was wise for Warner Bros. and New Line to move ahead with Annabelle: Creation. It’s the prequel to the 2014 hit Annabelle, which itself was a spinoff and prequel to James Wan’s 2013 horror hit The Conjuring.

The latter film grossed $137 million domestically just one year before John Leonetti’s Annabelle, which opened well with $37 million in early October 2014 and ended up with $84.2 million domestic, but it absolutely destroyed internationally with another $172 million. That opening number is especially good when you realize that it was going up against David Fincher’s Gone Girl adaptation, the two of them coming in neck-and-neck for the weekend. What we can surmise from the movie’s North American numbers is that many horror fans rushed out to see Annabelle opening weekend, but didn’t like what they saw, so business quickly tailed off. It also got a “B” CinemaScore and was trashed by critics with a 29% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, so its success was mainly based on early marketing.

The key to the sequel working (it has earned rave reviews so far) may be Swedish director David F. Sandberg, who had good luck last summer with his horror flick Lights Out, which was based on his own short film. It opened with $21.7 million opening weekend and grossed $67 million in North America, which is pretty good for an original genre film without a big star. Last summer also saw the release of Don’t Breathe in late August, and that did even better, grossing $89 million following a $26.4 million opening. Both of those movies are proof that there’s a real hunger for horror even late into the summer.

Unfortunately for Annabelle: Creation, those who hated the first movie may be reticent about rushing out to see the pre-prequel (or whatever you want to call it), even if the reviews are much better. That, right there, already makes the movie a tougher sell, but it’s also coming out late in a summer where few franchise sequels have fared well. Then again, ticket seller Fandango says that Annabelle: Creation is outpacing the original movie in terms of sales, so maybe the marketing is working for this movie too.

Since it’s not getting a plum October release, we can probably expect Annabelle: Creation to end up with somewhere in the $30 million range, but if the movie’s as good as reviews say, it might stick around at least until the opening of New Line’s next horror movie, It, in early September. The extended trailer for It in front of Annabelle: Creation will help sell that movie to younger audiences who may not be familiar with Stephen King’s book… or books in general.

Opening Weekend Current Gross Total Facebook Likes Twitter Activity (Past Week) 
Annabelle: Creation N/A N/A 4,332,339 38.090
Dunkirk $50.5m $141m 595,038 187,574
The Nut Job 2 N/A N/A 529,226 4,293
The Dark Tower  $19.2m  $26m 359,097  68,714
Girls Trip $31.2m $90m 255,648 83,434
The Glass Castle N/A N/A 58,919 6,668

This also hasn’t been a great summer for animated sequels, and we get another one this weekend with The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature. Now, I never saw the original The Nut Job, one of Open Road’s early hits, which opened over Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend in 2014 to $19.4 million in its first three days, and $64 million total domestic. Open Road has yet to have another movie do that well — not even its Best Picture winner Spotlight the following year.

There’s probably no point getting into the voice cast or any other factors for that first movie doing so well, other than it being released over a four-day school holiday weekend in January when the only family competition was Disney’s Frozen in its ninth weekend — and that still came in fifth place with $12 million that weekend!

So yeah, if you release a family movie in an open market where parents need something to entertain their kids, your movie will do well. If you release a sequel three-and-a-half years later in the slower month of August, when families are on vacation and some kids are already back in school, not so much.

Open Road knows this and they’re putting their money where their mouth is by releasing The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature into an astounding 4,000 theaters, while keeping reviews embargoed until the last minute.

Even if the sequel ends up suffering the same fate as other animated sequels this summer, having that many theaters should help it overpower Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk to take second place. We’re probably looking at somewhere in the $12 million to $15 million range, but honestly, I haven’t seen a single commercial, and if it wasn’t my job to know what was opening this weekend, I might not even know it existed.

The Dark Tower will have to settle fo  fourth place with a substantial drop, while Universal’s Girls Trip should drop just one place to fifth, followed by The Emoji Movie and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

glasscastleboxoffice
Lionsgate 

Lastly, we have the Lionsgate family drama, The Glass Castle, based on Jeanette Walls’ bestselling book, which remained on the New York Times bestseller list for five years, selling over 2.7 million copies. Sometimes, that may be enough to warrant making a movie, but this has been a longer journey that some might expect. First, Paramount bought the rights, attaching Jennifer Lawrence and bringing Short Term 12 filmmaker Destin Daniel Cretton on board to direct. Then Lawrence left and Lionsgate bought the rights, allowing Cretton to reunite with Short Term 12 star Brie Larson, just as she was earning buzz for her role in Room, which eventually won her an Oscar.

Between Larson and Cretton, and the casting of Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts as the former’s parents, you’d think that Lionsgate would now have a movie worth releasing during festival season. Apparently not, though to be fair, the studio may have felt burned in past years with past family dramas that had a little “awards buzz” going for them, like Ewan McGregor’s American Pastoral and 2015’s Freeheld. Both movies had their share of fans, but neither ever got a wide release, so perhaps Lionsgate should’ve taken a similar approach with The Glass Castle, which has more going for it than both those films.

Instead, Lionsgate is releasing The Glass Castle into 1,400 theaters, hoping that the fans of the book won’t all be on summer vacation. They’re also not going as all-out on the literary title as Sony did for Julia Roberts’ Eat Pray Love back in 2010. One certainly wonders whether Larson can do much to bring in non-readers based on her recent flop Free Fire, and outside the Hunger Games movies or the recent War for the Planet of the Apes, Harrelson hasn’t been much of a box office draw either (think Wilson and Rampart). Naomi Watts, as fine an actress as she might be, is pretty much box office poison these days.

Because of that, the once sure-fire Glass Castle is probably going to end up towards the bottom of the Top 10, in the same vicinity as Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit, because it’s doubtful non-readers will have any interest… even if I liked the movie quite a bit. (My Review)

     
Rotten Tomatoes IMDb Metacritic
Critics Users Stars  
Annabelle: Creation 69 N/A  7.3 63
Dunkirk 93 82  8.5  94
The Nut Job 2 20 N/A N/A N/A
The Dark Tower 18  61  6 34
Girls Trip 88 87 7 71
The Glass Castle 51 N/A N/A 59

As far as this week’s limited releases, we have two movies from Sundance, two movies that played Tribeca and one movie all the way from the Cannes Film Festival.

goodtimereview1A24

We’ll start with the last one first, and that’s because going by the rave reviews out of Cannes, you’d think that the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time, starring Robert Pattinson and being released by A24 this weekend, was the pinnacle of filmmaking. Personally, I hated it, but I have a long history of not getting some of the movies A24 has picked up at Cannes. Like last year’s American Honey, for example. Presumably, they’ll try to get this one out a bit wider despite preceding the fall festival season.

Possibly the only sure thing this weekend is that Michael Winterbottom’s The Trip to Spain (starring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon) will be able to gross more than $2 million, which would keep it in line with IFC Films’ previous releases The Trip in 2001, and The Trip to Italy three years later. Cut down from the BBC television series, these are popular comedies and the magic should continue at the indie box office.

Elsewhere, Tim League’s new distribution company NEON picked up Matt Spicer’s super-relevant comedy Ingrid Goes West out of Sundance, where Aubrey Plaza’s social media stalker garnered many a laugh. But look for O’Shea Jackson Jr (i.e. Ice Cube’s son who played his father in Straight Outta Compton) to steal the movie as her Batman-obsessed filmmaker neighbor. I’m not sure how wide NEON is going with this one, but it’s likely to play many an Alamo Drafthouse around the country.

After having a minor indie hit earlier this year with Gifted, director Marc Webb returns with The Only Living Boy in New York (Amazon/Roadside Attractions), based on the Black List script by Allan Loeb (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps). It’s about a young New York writer (Callum Turner) who has an affair with his father’s mistress (Kate Beckinsale). It’s a smaller passion project that probably won’t get the reviews it needs to get people into theaters, so it might be one of Amazon’s rare disappointments. I don’t expect Roadside to release it very wide, but please do read my interview with Webb to learn more about the movie and see if it’s your cup of tea.

The Sundance doc Whose Streets? (Magnolia) by Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis takes a serious look at the Black Lives Matter movement and the situation in Ferguson, Missouri that exploded following the murder of teenager Michael Brown by local police. This is opening in about 24 theaters.

As far as foreign films go, New York-based indie distributor Grasshopper Films will release Bertrand Bonello’s thriller Nocturama, about a group of French kids who plan a terrorist act in order to revolt against the system, while the recent Fantasia Film Festival closer, Jang Hoon’s A Taxi Driver, will be released by Well GO USA in select cities. Look for more about Nocturama on Saturday.

Lastly, Brendan Muldowney’s surprisingly solid 13th century thriller Pilgrimage (RLJ Entertainment) — starring Tom Holland and Jon Bernthal before they became Spider-Man and the Punisher, respectively — will get a slim theatrical release, as its primary focus is VOD.

That’s it for now. Check back on Saturday morning for an update on how the movies above are faring, and then I’ll have the full weekend box office report on Monday.

(Sources: boxofficemojo.com, rottentomatoes.com, imdb.com, metacritic.com. Figures represent numbers at time of writing, and may have changed. Tracking Board does not report Rotten Tomatoes user ratings for movies that have not yet seen wide release.)

  | East Coast Editor
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Still quiet here.sas

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