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Box Office Preview: The Warrens Return To Challenge A Quiet Place

Last weekend was the biggest overall weekend at the box office since the pandemic began, thanks to A Quiet Place Part II pulling big time numbers and Cruella giving a solid assist. This weekend, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It opens and marks the first of the main “Conjuring” movies not directed by James Wan.

It should be a close race for first as A Quiet Place 2 has been holding better than expected in the daily grosses, pulling the biggest Tuesday gross of the pandemic ($4.2M) and the best non-opening day Wednesday ($3.8M) as well, while also displaying better than usual post-Memorial Day holds. This is both a great sign for the film and the industry, as we’re seeing “summer” daily numbers/percentages back much sooner than we could have hoped for.

In normal times, a great hold from the Emily Blunt starring/John Krasinski directed sequel *probably* wouldn’t be enough to top a proper Conjuring movie’s debut. The first two earned just over $40M each in their first three days. However, the spin-offs have seen a slight downturn recently. 2018’s The Nun represents the series high 3-day gross with $53.8M opening weekend. However, summer 2019’s Annabelle Comes Home opened far below expectations with $31.1M after FIVE days. This was despite marketing the supporting work from main franchise players Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga (who of course play the lead characters Ed and Lorraine Warren in the Conjuring films).

Another element working against The Devil Made Me Do It is its 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is a sizable downturn from the 86% of the original and the 80% of the second. All of these factors mean it was more than likely going to open lower than its predecessors.

However, even that isn’t the real reason why Conjuring 3 may not open number one. It’s the fact that the film will be available on HBO Max simultaneously. Even if the movie does go number one, there will surely be money left on the table. Given the industry’s state of recovery, audiences are craving new movies to give them a reason to come back, and an exclusive window may have negated the reasons this film would have opened lower than the other two.

Not only will the opening weekend lose a good bit of box office to the folks who already have HBO Max and will choose to watch it at no extra cost, but the movie coming on the heels of two other horror/thriller films in AQP2 and Spiral doesn’t help. Both of those had an exclusive window, and I wouldn’t be shocked if some genre fans decided to see Conjuring 3 on streaming no matter how much they were looking forward to it, simply because they can and they’ve already gone to the cinema recently to scratch their horror/thriller itch.

This is why I’m not even sure Conjuring 3 can hit $20M this weekend. I’d love to see it get that and more, but I just don’t know how realistic that is. What makes that an even bigger deal is that we’ve seen huge drops from all the HBO Max/Theatrical simultaneous releases on their second weekend. From there they slowly level off to solid holds, but the horror genre is already known for big second weekend drops, and that could kneecap it so substantially, that the layer holds won’t matter. Add to that the constant competition coming this summer, something that the previous HBO Max films didn’t have to deal with and things looks even worse for its final total.

This is why I fear that Conjuring 3 will finish not with the biggest entries in this franchise domestically, like The Conjuring ($137M), Conjuring 2 ($102M), Annabelle Creation ($102M), and The Nun ($117M), but closer to (or lower than) Annabelle ($80M) or Annabelle Comes Home ($74M). Obviously, if this movie makes ~$75M or less, there’s going to be no doubt that Warner Bros. left a lot of money on the table.

I respect and appreciate that WB keep putting movies out this year while other big studios weren’t, but I’ve always said and will keep saying the decision to release all their 2021 slate this way was a mistake. Movies are coming back in a big way, and what the industry needs more than anything are movies people want to see and can’t see anywhere else. Without that exclusive window, many people won’t be compelled to leave their homes. Plus, in normal times if you love a movie you may go see it again in theaters, but the HBO Max films have much less repeat value theatrically, as they’re steaming for no extra fee for their first 45 days.

This is why I would have waited and made the decisions as we got closer to release. Godzilla Vs. Kong showed us two months ago people wanted to come back in a big way. Since then we’ve seen so much change, from way more vaccinations to mask mandates lifting, all of which has increased consumer confidence. Upcoming movies like The Suicide Squad and Dune should be theatrical exclusives. That being said, maybe I’m wrong and Conjuring 3 will open huge and have great legs.

However, my guess for now is $19.8M this weekend for a solid (with the HBO Max caveat) second place finish behind A Quiet Place 2, which I’m hoping takes in at least another $20M, but possibly more.

Cruella should be in third place with a little over $10M at least, and the other new opener Spirit Untamed (which is a follow up to 2002 original but more in line with the Netflix show) will be happy in fourth place with anything from $5.5M to $8M. Family films have been holding well in the pandemic and it’s the first outright family film since Raya and The Last Dragon opened in March. Also it’s a cheaper film from DreamWorks as they outsourced the animation as opposed to doing it in house.

Should be another important and fascinating weekend at the box office!

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