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‘Gone Girl’ Blasts Past ‘Annabelle’ as Thrillers Blow Up Box Office

David Fincher-Ben Affleck murder tale soars to $38 million as demon doll horror saga scares up $37 million

David Fincher and Ben Affleck‘s “Gone Girl” eked out a narrow victory over the micro-budgeted horror tale “Annabelle” to claim the box office crown this weekend, as both R-rated thrillers blasted past expectations.

The adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s dark bestseller about a man accused of his wife’s murder rallied on Saturday and took in $38 million over the three days for New Regency and Fox. Meanwhile, the demon doll spin-off from last summer’s hit “The Conjuring,” which was No. 1 after Friday, came in just behind that with $37.2 million. Both totals are based on estimates for Sunday business, so the final figures could change on Monday.

Last weekend’s top movie, Denzel Washington‘s “The Equalizer,” was third with $19 million for Sony. The weekend’s other wide opener, the Nicolas Cage faith-based thriller “Left Behind,” took in a limp $6.5 million, behind holdovers “The Maze Runner” and “The Boxtrolls,” which both wound up at around $12 million.

Also read: Nic Cage’s ‘Left Behind’ Doesn’t Have a Prayer at Box Office

The impressive openings of “Gone Girl” and “Annabelle” — the studios were projecting debuts in the $20 million range — and strong showings by returning movies provided a much-needed adrenaline shot for the overall box office, which is coming off its worst September in six years. The weekend ran nearly 20 percent ahead of last year, when “Gravity” debuted at No. 1 with $55.7 million.

“Gone Girl” is easily 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).

“All of it, starting with Fincher making an incredibly intriguing movie to the marketing, distribution and publicity, combined to create a cultural happening,” said Fox distribution chief Chris Aronson. “It has sparked so many conversations with its exploration of marriage, and we think it will for months.”

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,” another mature-skewing thriller. Fox and New Regency would love to see “Gone Girl” show the same staying power that film did, and if it is in the awards conversations, it could. “Argo,” the eventual Best Picture Oscar winner, opened to $19.4 million around this time last year and played strongly for months, winding up with $136 million domestically.

Also read: ‘Gone Girl’ Author Gillian Flynn to Write Entire Season of HBO’s ‘Utopia’ for David Fincher

“Gone Girl,” which recently opened the New York Film Festival, benefited from strong reviews (87 percent on Rotten Tomatoes) and the built-in base from the book, which has sold more than 6 million copies. The audience, which was 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 was produced by Arnon Milchan, Joshua Donen, Reese Witherspoon and Cean Chaffin. With it taking in another $24 million from openings in 34 foreign markets, it brought in $62.6 million globally this weekend — exceeding its $61 million production budget.

The powerful opening for “Annabelle” is a big score for New Line, since it cost just $6.5 million to make. Scary movies typically get a big turnout from genre fans and fall off significantly from Friday to Saturday, but this one didn’t, losing just 10 percent of its big first-day crowd.

Also read: ‘Annabelle’ Review: ‘The Conjuring’ Prequel Is Surprisingly Poignant and Plenty Scary

The audience — which was 51 percent women and 54 percent under the age of 25 — gave it a “B” CinemaScore. That’s high for a horror movie and the positive buzz had to have helped.

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

The muscular showing by “The Equalizer” – it was off just 44 percent from its opening weekend – ups its domestic total to $65 million after just 10 days. Also holding very well were Focus Features “The Boxtrolls” and Fox’s “The Maze Runner,” which fell just 34 and 44 percent from last week’s totals respectively. That’s impressive, since a 50 percent hold is considered good.

The top ten:

“Gone Girl,” $38M;

“Annabelle,” $37.2M;

“The Equalizer,” $19M;

“The Boxtrolls,” $12.4M;

“The Maze Runner,” $12M;

“Left Behind,” $6M;

“This Is Where I Leave You,” $4M;

“Dolphin Tale 2,” $3.5M;

“Guardians of the Galaxy,” $3M;

“No Good Deed,” $2.5M