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'Annabelle' Gets Jump on 'Gone Girl' at Thursday Box Office

Young horror fans help "Conjuring" spinoff draw first blood in battle with the David Fincher-Ben Affleck whodunit

Early-bird horror fans pushed "Annabelle" to the front in this weekend's box-office battle of the R-rated thrillers.

The New Line horror movie brought in an estimated $2.1 million from Thursday night shows, ahead of the David Fincher-directed "Gone Girl." The Fox-New Regency adaptation of Gillian Flynn's bestseller starring Ben Affleck brought in $1.2 million from its early shows.

It should be a close race this weekend between the ultra-low budget "Annabelle" -- it cost just $6.5 million to make -- and "Gone Girl," with both expected to top $20 million. There should be room in the marketplace for both, since the horror movie is expected to play to a younger crowd and "Gone Girl" skews older.

Also read: 'Gone Girl' Advance Sales Explode - Can It Dunk-a-Doll at Box Office?

By comparison, "The Conjuring," last summer's breakout hit from which "Annabelle" was spun, took in $3.3 million in its Thursday night debut and brought in $41.8 million in its first weekend. Earlier this year, the "Oculus" brought in $475,000 from Thursday shows that started at 10 p.m. and went on to $12 million.

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" will be in 3.185 theaters, while "Gone Girl" will be in 3,014. "Left Behind," the Nic Cage Biblical Rapture thriller, will be in 1,820 theaters.