‘Annabelle’ and ‘Gone Girl’ Killing It in Battle of R-Rated Thrillers at Box Office

Horror tale takes Friday with $15.5 million, but David Fincher-Ben Affleck dark saga is on $36 million pace

The micro-budgeted horror movie “Annabelle” took the lead over David Fincher and Ben Affleck‘s “Gone Girl” on Friday, with both movies over-performing in a slam-bang battle of R-rated thrillers at the box office.

Young horror fans turned out in force and the demon doll tale from Warner Bros.’ New Line was No. 1, having brought in $15.5 million in its first day. It’s on course for a $31 million opening — not bad for movie that cost $6.5 million.

But the adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling dark mystery from New Regency and Fox has the inside track to claim the weekend. It took in $13.2 million Friday, and its older-skewing audience and a ton of good buzz are expected to lift it past “The Conjuring” spin-off to a three-day total of around $36 million.

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Last weekend’s top movie, Denzel Washington‘s “The Equalizer,” was running third and is on pace for a $17 million three-day total for Sony. The weekend’s other wide opener, the Nicolas Cage faith-based thriller “Left Behind,” is headed for a soft $7 million opening, behind “The Maze Runner” and “The Boxtrolls.” They both held strongly and are looking at $10 million-$11 million over the weekend.

The better-than-expected openings by the leaders and solid holds are good news for the overall box office, which is coming off its worst September in six years. The weekend is running about 12 percent ahead of last year, when “Gravity” debuted with $55.7 million.

“Gone Girl” will be director Fincher’s biggest opening ever, ahead of “Panic Room ($30 million), “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” ($26.8 million) and “The Social Network” ($22.4 million).

Also read: ‘Annabelle’ Reviews: Is This Creepy Doll Worth Skipping ‘Gone Girl’ For?

It’s not close to Affleck’s biggest opener — the $59 million debut of 2001’s “Pearl Harbor” — but it’s considerably better than last year’s “Argo.” Fox and New Regency are hoping “Gone Girl” will show the staying power that film did. The eventual Best Picture Oscar winner opened to $19.4 million around this time last year, played strongly for months and wound up with $136 million domestically.

“Gone Girl,” which played the New York Film Festival, was clearly benefiting from its strong reviews (87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). The audience, which broke down to 62 percent female and 75 percent over the age of 25, gave it a B CinemaScore.

Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry co-star in “Gone Girl,” which has a $61 million production budget and was produced by Arnon Milchan, Joshua Donen, Reese Witherspoon and Cean Chaffin.

“Annabelle” stars Alfre Woodard, Annabelle Wallis and Ward Horton, and is directed by John R. Leonetti.