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'The Nun' to continue Warner Bros.' winning streak at the box office

'The Nun' to continue Warner Bros.' winning streak at the box office
Taissa Farmiga in "The Nun," the latest spinoff from the hit horror "Conjuring" series. (Warner Bros.)

Competitors won’t have a prayer at the box office this weekend against Warner Bros.’ horror spinoff “The Nun,” the latest release from the studio’s highly profitable “The Conjuring” franchise.

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“The Nun,” which cost about $22 million to produce, is expected to collect at least $36 million Friday through Sunday in the U.S. and Canada, according to people who have reviewed prerelease audience surveys.

Such a result would be a strong start for the fall movie season after the film industry enjoyed a robust summer. A string of hits boosted summer ticket sales to $4.4 billion, according to ComScore, up 14% from a dismal 2017.

The new horror film from Warner’s New Line Cinema unit should easily take the top spot at the domestic box office this weekend, marking the latest success for AT&T-owned Warner Bros. The studio has been basking in the breakout performance of the $30-million rom-com “Crazy Rich Asians” ($137 million in worldwide receipts) and a surprisingly strong run for its giant shark movie “The Meg” ($467 million).

If “The Nun” opens at No. 1, it will be the fifth weekend in a row dominated by the Burbank studio, a welcome winning streak that comes less than a year after the sobering disappointment of its big-budget superhero movie “Justice League.”

Here’s what to watch.

Sinful box office

Starting in 2013, the “Conjuring” franchise has been a boon for Warner Bros. and New Line, buoyed by well-liked characters, generally strong reviews and a persistent hunger among horror fans who want to see scary movies in theaters.

That audience, which feeds on the experience of being jolted in a crowded auditorium, also turned such films as Warner’s “It” and Paramount Pictures’ “A Quiet Place” into major hits at the multiplex.

Building on the first film’s $320-million worldwide run, Warner Bros. has produced an expanding roster of supernatural threats from the “Conjuring” movies, loosely based on the investigations of demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren. The series has even spawned two movies about the possessed doll, Annabelle, from the original film.

Now the R-rated “Nun” is turning its cinematic lens on the demonic force that first graced the big screen in 2016’s “The Conjuring 2.” “The Nun’s” projected $36-million debut would be roughly the same as 2014’s “Annabelle” and 2017’s “Annabelle: Creation.” The “Conjuring” franchise has grossed a total of $1.2 billion so far.

Reviews for “The Nun” have not yet been published. The first “Annabelle” movie was the lone “Conjuring” film to receive a low score on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes.

A fresh start with ‘Peppermint’?

“The Nun” should easily devour its main competition this weekend, the R-rated Jennifer Garner action thriller “Peppermint.”

The film, starring Garner as a young mother out for justice after her family is gunned down, is expected to debut with $10 million to $15 million in domestic ticket sales. STXfilms and Lakeshore Entertainment produced “Peppermint,” which was directed by “Taken” filmmaker Pierre Morel.

As Garner goes for her Liam Neeson moment, Freestyle Releasing will unveil its latest Christian-themed drama “God Bless the Broken Road.” The film, about a woman who struggles with faith after her husband is killed in Afghanistan, is expected to collect $2 million to $4 million.

The last Christian movie to break out at the box office was Roadside Attractions’ “I Can Only Imagine,” based on a popular inspirational song. That surprise hit grossed $83 million after its March release.

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