‘Annabelle’ may con­jure hit

The hor­ror pre­quel is ex­pected to rise amid slug­gish Au­gust box of­fice, pre­mier­ing with $25 mil­lion.

Los Angeles Times - - COMPANY TOWN - By Ryan Faugh­n­der ryan.faugh­n­der@la­times.com Twit­ter: @rfaugh­n­der

Can an evil doll save the do­mes­tic box of­fice dur­ing an oth­er­wise ghastly month? No, not re­ally, but New Line Cin­ema’s hor­ror pre­quel “Annabelle: Cre­ation” should breathe some life into the list­less Au­gust box of­fice, with a de­but of at least $25 mil­lion.

A strong open­ing would be a re­lief af­ter a par­tic­u­larly bruis­ing week­end for do­mes­tic mul­ti­plexes, as the top 10 films col­lec­tively grossed $105 mil­lion in the U.S. and Canada, less than half the $218-mil­lion tally from the com­pa­ra­ble week­end last year, ac­cord­ing to ComS­core. (“Sui­cide Squad” led the prior-year week­end with its $133-mil­lion launch.) The mea­ger charge was led by Sony Pic­tures’ and Me­dia Rights Cap­i­tal’s long-awaited Stephen King adap­ta­tion “The Dark Tower,” which col­lected a soft $19 mil­lion.

Do­mes­tic ticket sales this year are down 3%.

Be­sides “Annabelle,” Open Road will un­leash the se­quel to its talk­ing ro­dent car­toon “The Nut Job,” while Lion­s­gate will re­lease its fam­ily drama “The Glass Cas­tle.”

With “Annabelle: Cre­ation,” Warner Bros. and New Line may add an­other hit to their suc­cess­ful hor­ror se­ries based on 2013’s “The Con­jur­ing,” which in­tro­duced a possessed doll that ter­ror­izes fam­i­lies. The rel­a­tively low-bud­get “Con­jur­ing” movies and spinoffs, loosely based on the sto­ries of real-life para­nor­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tors Ed and Lor­raine War­ren, have grossed nearly $900 mil­lion world­wide, ac­cord­ing to Box Of­fice Mojo.

“Annabelle: Cre­ation” is a pre­quel and ori­gin story lead­ing into 2014’s spinoff “Annabelle,” which was it­self a pre­quel to the orig­i­nal “Con­jur­ing” movie di­rected by James Wan. “Cre­ation” is di­rected by David F. Sand­berg, whose fea­ture de­but was last year’s sur­prise hit “Lights Out,” based on his short film that went vi­ral on YouTube. “Lights Out,” made for $5 mil­lion, opened with $21.7 mil­lion in the U.S. and Canada, and ended up with $149 mil­lion in global ticket sales.

A $25-mil­lion de­but for “Annabelle: Cre­ation” would be a solid re­sult for a movie that cost about $15 mil­lion to make. Count­ing in the new movie’s fa­vor are its gen­er­ally pos­i­tive re­views (82% “fresh” on Rot­ten Toma­toes), some­thing that couldn’t be said for the first “Annabelle” (29%). There’s also a con­spic­u­ous lack of di­rect com­pe­ti­tion from other stu­dio prod­ucts at the­aters.

Mean­while, re­cently ac­quired dis­trib­u­tor Open Road Films will try to draw kids to the­aters with “The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Na­ture,” a fol­low-up to the 2014 an­i­mated heist com­edy about chat­ter­ing squir­rels. The $40-mil­lion se­quel, fea­tur­ing the voices of Will Ar­nett and Kather­ine Heigl, is ex­pected to open with $12 mil­lion to $15 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple who have seen pre-re­lease au­di­ence sur­veys.

The first “Nut Job” opened with $19 mil­lion on its way to $64 mil­lion do­mes­ti­cally, mak­ing it Open Road’s high­est-gross­ing film. This week, Open Road, launched in 2011 by the­ater chains Regal En­ter­tain­ment and AMC En­ter­tain­ment, was ac­quired by Tang Me­dia Part­ners, a Los An­ge­les­based com­pany with back­ers in­clud­ing China’s Ten­cent Hold­ings.

As Open Road courts fam­i­lies, Lion­s­gate’s “The Glass Cas­tle” will tar­get grown-up movie­go­ers with a mid­size re­lease on about 1,400 screens. An­a­lysts ex­pect the film, star­ring Brie Lar­son, Woody Har­rel­son and Naomi Watts, to col­lect about $5 mil­lion through Sun­day. Based on a 2005 mem­oir by Jean­nette Walls, “The Glass Cas­tle” re­counts Walls’ up­bring­ing in a no­madic, poverty-stricken fam­ily. Writer-di­rec­tor Destin Daniel Cret­ton’s pre­vi­ous fea­ture was the highly re­garded 2013 in­die film “Short Term 12,” which also starred Lar­son.

Warner Bros. En­ter­tain­ment TNS

A $25-MIL­LION DE­BUT for “Annabelle: Cre­ation” would be a solid re­sult for a movie that cost about $15 mil­lion to make.

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