Warner Bros. ended the summer on a remarkable high note as “Crazy Rich Asians” and “The Meg” combined to gross $240 million at the box office this past month. Now they look to keep that success going with New Line’s “The Nun,” the fifth installment in the “Conjuring” horror series.
While most studios have largely steered clear of releasing films — or at least major ones — in late August and early September, Warner Bros. has turned that into a slot where they can release a New Line mid-budget horror film to excellent results.
Last year, the studio released the “Conjuring” film “Annabelle: Creation” in August, which grossed $306 million globally against a $15 million budget.
Then, the following month, WB struck gold with the remake of Stephen King’s “It,” which set a September box office opening weekend record with $123 million and became the highest grossing horror film of all-time with $700 million worldwide.
While “The Nun” won’t be the smash hit that “It” was, it is in position to set a franchise opening record for the “Conjuring” films. Independent trackers are expecting the $22 million film to open in the high $40 million range this weekend from 3,700 screens, with the most optimistic projections reaching $52 million. WB is projecting a low $40 million start.
The franchise record is held by the first “Conjuring” with $41.8 million in 2013, and if “The Nun” hits the higher end of projections, it will have the second-highest opening for a September release behind “It.” That spot currently belongs to “Hotel Transylvania 2” with $48 million.
While “The Nun” is very different from “Asians,” “The Meg,” or even “It,” like all those films it has done a stellar job of targeting its marketing towards moviegoers who would be the most intrigued. WB and New Line recently released an online featurette outlining the timeline of the “Conjuring” universe that has been built over the last five years, while moviegoers who saw films like “The First Purge” and “The Meg” were treated to a terrifying trailer.
“It’s an incredibly well-cut trailer, and what’s interesting is that it really doesn’t play up the connection to ‘The Conjuring’ all that much,” said Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock. “I think this film is going to get great results from both casual horror fans who just like the premise and the sneak peeks and the hardcore ‘Conjuring’ fans who have been keeping up with the series from the previous four films.”
Directed by Corin Hardy and written by longtime “Conjuring” scribe Gary Dauberman, “The Nun” is a spin-off based around Valak, the demonic nun that faced off against Ed and Lorraine Warren in “The Conjuring 2.”
Set in Romania in 1952, the film follows a Catholic priest (Demian Bichir) and a young novice named Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) as they are sent by the Vatican to investigate the mysterious suicide of a nun at the Carta Monastery. Bonnie Aarons returns to reprise her role as the titular demon.
Also releasing this weekend is STX’s revenge film “Peppermint,” which marks Jennifer Garner’s return to an action role 12 years after the conclusion of “Alias.” Following a mourning mother who hunts down those who murdered her husband and daughter, the film is projected for a $10-13 million opening from 2,800 screens.
Finally, there’s Entertainment Studios’ faith-based drama “God Bless the Broken Road, the latest film from “God’s Not Dead” director Harold Cronk. Starring Lindsey Pulsipher as a mother who struggles to raise her daughter after her husband is killed in Afghanistan, the film is expected to open outside the top five this weekend with a $2-4 million opening.