NEW YORK — The "Conjuring" spinoff "Annabelle: Creation" scared up an estimated $35 million in North American theaters over the weekend, easily making it the top film and giving the lagging August box office a shot in the arm.
The opening came close to matching the film's predecessor, "Annabelle," which opened with $37.1 million in October 2014. Warner Bros. could celebrate not only the month's biggest debut but also the week's top two films. Christopher Nolan's "Dunkirk" followed in second, with $11.4 million, in its fourth weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday.
Even amid an especially weak August, the well-reviewed horror sequel and modestly budgeted "Annabelle: Creation" found eager audiences.
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"That we were able to do $35 million in what is a very sluggish marketplace was very impressive," said Jeffrey Goldstein, Warner Bros.' distribution chief. "We all know that movie-going begets movie-going, and right now it's a dip in the content overall."
The film, the third to spiral out of 2013's "The Conjuring," cost only about $15 million to make. More sequels and spinoffs are being developed in what has become for Warner Bros. a steadily profitable horror franchise bent on old-school frights. The "Annabelle" offshoot centers on a possessed doll.
Last week's top film, the poorly received Stephen King adaptation "The Dark Tower," slid dramatically. The Sony Pictures release, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, tumbled by nearly 60 percent on its second weekend, with an estimated $7.9 million.
The week's other new entry, the Open Road animated release "Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature," edged just above "The Dark Tower," with $8.9 million. That was well below the 2014 debut of the original, "The Nut Job," which opened with $19.4 million.
But the solid returns for "Annabelle: Creation" did little to counter the box office slide. The box office was down 31.6 percent from the same weekend last year, when Seth Rogen's "Sausage Party" opened and "Suicide Squad" was No. 1 despite brutal reviews. The summer altogether is down by 12.4 percent from last year, according to comScore.
"This is a great weekend to be a really scary doll and Warner Bros., but for everyone else, it's just plain scary," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for comScore. "It proves the horror genre is alive and well."
Some of July's bright spots, however, have continued into August. The summer's top comedy, "Girls Trip," will soon surpass $100 million domestically. The movie, starring Jada Pinkett Smith and Queen Latifah, took in $6.5 million in its fourth week to bring its total to $97.2 million. It may end up doubling the gross of its closest summer comedy competition: the starrier and pricey "Baywatch" ($58.1 million in its entire run).
In limited release, the A24 crime thriller "Good Time," starring Robert Pattinson, debuted with a robust $34,000-per-screen average on four screens. That was bettered, though, by the $47,000-per-screen average of Neon's "Ingrid Goes West," with Aubrey Plaza, on three screens. Both films expand in coming weeks.
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters according to comScore. Where available, the latest international numbers also are included. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
"Annabelle: Creation," $35 million ($35 million international).
"Dunkirk," $11.4 million ($14.5 million international).
"Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature," $8.9 million.
"The Dark Tower," $7.9 million ($7.9 million international).
"The Emoji Movie," $6.6 million ($14.1 million international).
"Girls Trip," $6.5 million ($1.4 million international).
"Spider-Man: Homecoming," $6.1 million ($12.4 million international).
"Kidnap," $5.2 million.
"Glass Castle," $4.9 million.
"Atomic Blonde," $4.6 million ($5.2 million international).