Moviegoers like playing with dolls — or at least menacing ones.
Warner Bros./New Line's R-rated prequel Annabelle: Creation conjured up a pleasing $35 million from 3,502 theaters in its domestic box-office debut, more than enough to scare off the competition even as it came in somewhat behind the previous three films in the successful Conjuring horror franchise.
Overall, it was another sluggish weekend at the North American box office, with revenue down more than 30 percent from the same frame last year as new animated offering The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature did muted business and holdovers including The Dark Tower and Detroit continued to struggle. Summer to date is now 12 percent down from the same frame in 2016, while year to date is down 4 percent.
Directed by David F. Sandberg, Annabelle: Creation follows a doll maker and his wife who, after losing their little girl, welcome a nun and several girls from a shuttered orphanage into their home. But they soon become the target of the doll maker's possessed creation, Annabelle. Females made up the majority of the audience (52 percent), while a full 46 percent of ticket buyers were under the age of 25.
In summer 2016, The Conjuring 2 opened to $40.4 million on its way to grossing $320.3 million globally. Annabelle, a spinoff, debuted to $37.1 million in 2014, while The Conjuring took in $41.9 million in 2013.
"We would have been happy to hit $30 million, considering the sluggish marketplace," says Warners domestic distribution president Jeff Goldstein.
The horror pic marks another summer win for Warner Bros. after Wonder Woman and Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk, which remained a formidable force in its fourth weekend, placing No. 2 with $11.4 million and crossing the $150 million mark in North America — no small accomplishment for a World War II drama relying on an older audience. Dunkirk earned another $14.5 million offshore for a foreign tally of $210 million and $363.6 million worldwide to date.
Annabelle: Creation is also impressing overseas, where it took in $35 million from 39 markets for an early foreign cume of $36.7 million and global tally of $71.7 million. It is doing big business abroad, including in South Korea ($6.6 million), where the box office doesn't seem affected by the ongoing war of words between North Korea and the Trump administration.
The horror pic placed second internationally behind China box-office sensation Wolf Warrior 2, which grossed as much as $83 million for a record-breaking total of at least $680 million in the Middle Kingdom and $685 million in total, according to comScore.
Elsewhere in North America, Open Road's animated sequel The Nut Job 2 debuted in third place with $8.9 million from 4,003 theaters — less than half the $19.4 million collected by The Nut Job in January 2014.
Nut Job 2 rolled out in theaters just days after Tang Media announced it is acquiring Open Road from AMC Entertainment and Regal Entertainment. The sequel, directed by Cal Brunker, follows a group of animals trying to stop their serene park from being turned into an amusement venture. The voice cast features Will Arnett, Maya Rudolph, Jackie Chan and Katherine Heigl.
Sony's The Dark Tower fell from No. 1 to No. 4 in its second outing with $7.9 million for a disappointing 10-day domestic total of $34.3 million.
Universal's Girls Trip, one of the more successful live-action comedies in recent times, rounded out the top five with $6.5 million for a domestic total of $97.2 million. The R-rated pic — which also took in $8.4 million overseas over the weekend for a worldwide tally of $105.6 million — is all but assured of soon crossing the $100 million mark in North America, just as Edgar Wright's Baby Driver did over the weekend in a victory for Sony.
Outside of the top five, Lionsgate's adaptation of Jeannette Walls' best-selling memoir about her harrowing childhood, The Glass Castle, placed No. 9, according to early estimates.
The drama opened in far fewer theaters than its rivals (1,461 locations), grossing an estimated $4.9 million. Brie Larson, who reunited with her Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretton, plays Walls in the film, while Woody Harrelson plays Walls' alcoholic father Rex and Naomi Watts portrays her mother. Glass Castle, which earned an A- CinemaScore, skewed heavily female (80 percent).
Annapurna Pictures' Detroit, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, tumbled 58 percent in its second weekend to $3 million for a domestic total of $13.4 million and fell to No. 13.
Al Gore's climate documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is likewise having trouble finding its footing. The follow-up, from Paramount and Participant Media, earned $800,000 as it expanded into a total of 556 theaters over the weekend for a domestic cume of $2.3 million.
The big headline at the specialty box office was director/writer Matt Spicer's Ingrid Goes West, which opened to $141,216 from three theaters for a screen average of $47,072, the best of the weekend. From Neon, the dramedy stars Aubrey Plaza as an obsessive young woman who moves to Los Angeles to pursue a social media influencer. Elizabeth Olsen and Billy Magnussen also star.
The Weinstein Co.'s Wind River also posted a strong location average of $14,268 as it moved into 45 theaters in its sophomore outing for an early domestic total of $870,285.
Aug. 13, 12 p.m. Updated with additional foreign grosses.