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‘The Nun’ makes a habit of dominating the box office as sequel launches at No. 1

Taissa Farmiga wearing a nun's habit and holding a cross in a dim passageway
Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene in New Line Cinema’s horror thriller “The Nun II,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.
(Bruno Calvo / Warner Bros. Pictures)
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It appears “The Nun” is making a habit of dominating the box office.

Warner Bros.’ “The Nun II” opened in first place at the domestic box office this weekend, scaring up $32.6 million, according to estimates from measurement firm Comscore.

The latest installment in the “Conjuring” franchise claimed the box-office crown five years after its predecessor, “The Nun,” snagged the biggest opening of the saga ($53.5 million). The second “Nun” movie matched projections, which anticipated a $30-plus million launch for the horror flick in the United States and Canada.

Internationally, the spooky sequel amassed $52.7 million for a worldwide total of $85.3 million.

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Rounding out the top five at the domestic box office this weekend were Sony Pictures’ “The Equalizer 3,” which grossed $12.1 million in its sophomore outing for a North American haul of $61.9 million; Focus Features’ “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” which debuted at $10 million; Yash Raj Films’ “Jawan,” which opened to $6.2 million; and Warner Bros.’ “Barbie,” which added $5.9 million in its eighth frame for a North American cumulative of $620.5 million.

Directed by Michael Chaves, “The Nun II” sees Taissa Farmiga reprise her role as Sister Irene, doomed to be haunted once again by a demonic nun named Valak (Bonnie Aarons). The cast also features Jonas Bloquet, Storm Reid and Anna Popplewell.

The movie received a lackluster 45% rotten score on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes and a C-plus grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

Warner Bros. dominated the top two spots of this weekend’s box office (and three of the top five), marking the studio’s fifth consecutive week at the top of the charts.

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“Almost every scene in the movie unfolds in the same way: Some quivering poppet (altar boy, delivery girl, student) goes wandering into a dusty old space (rectory, cellar, chapel) and has the bejesus scared out of them by some crashing thing (wine jug, window, statue) and the spooky face of the creepy nun demon (Bonnie Aarons, we salute you),” writes film critic Katie Walsh for Tribune News Service.

“Lather, rinse, repeat. It’s actually shocking how many times this same scenic formula plays out in ‘The Nun II,’ and never with any spectacular payoff.”

Despite less-than-glowing reviews for both, the “Nun” movies have done relatively well at the domestic box office. Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema have also made extra money from “Nun”-themed merchandise, such as dolls and costumes. And Aarons recently sued the entertainment companies, alleging that they have profited from said merchandise without giving the face of “The Nun” her fair share.

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“The importance of Ms. Aarons’ contributions to the success of the films is undeniable,” the lawsuit reads.

“Unlike most horror movie monsters who hide behind a mask or are CGI creations, Valak is based on Ms. Aarons’ physical features ... A significant portion of all merchandise for the Conjuring Cinematic Universe uses Ms. Aarons’ likeness because Valak is its most popular character and there are no logos associated with franchise to use on merchandise.”

New Line declined to comment on the lawsuit when it was filed, while Warner Bros. did not respond to The Times’ request for comment at the time.

Also new to theaters this weekend was “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3.” The third installment in the comedy franchise has arrived more than 20 years after the original “Big Fat Greek Wedding” became the highest-grossing independently produced rom-com ever made.

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Starring, written and directed by Nia Vardalos, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” sees the wacky Portokalos family travel to — where else? — Greece for a family reunion. The cast also includes John Corbett, Lainie Kazan and Andrea Martin.

The destination sequel garnered a dismal 28% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes, as well as a B grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

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“Who can blame [Vardalos] for wanting to finally ship the overworked ethnic-family jokes, tired cultural references and forced zaniness from the Chicago suburbs to the picturesque homeland of the title?” writes film critic Robert Abele for The Times.

“Especially after the ‘Mamma Mia!’ movies have already taken advantage of that Mediterranean beauty — and those characters aren’t even Greek! And ABBA is Swedish! ... Still, those ‘Mamma Mia!’ bicker-and-swoon musicals are carefully crafted confections next to the soggy baklava that is ‘Greek Wedding 3,’ in which the honey from the original film’s mixture has fermented, and the dough no longer adheres to any recognizable shape.”

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Meanwhile, “Jawan” scored the biggest global opening ever for a Hindi-language picture, earning $9.4 million in India and $15.6 million worldwide, according to Variety. The action thriller starring Shah Rukh Khan easily cleared the previous record holder — another recent Khan vehicle titled “Pathaan.”

Domestically, “Jawan” debuted in fourth place playing in only 813 cinemas across the United States and Canada — raking in an impressive average of $7,616 per theater, according to Comscore. (For comparison, “The Nun II” opened in 3,728 cinemas across the United States and Canada).

Helmed by Atlee Kumar, “Jawan” stars Khan as a man on a mission to keep his promise of making the world a better place while battling a sinister outlaw who has caused severe harm to others. The ensemble also includes Nayanthara, Deepika Padukone, Vijay Sethupathi, Sunil Grover and Sanya Malhotra.

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The suspenseful film notched an outstanding critic score of 93% and an audience score of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. It has not been graded by audiences polled by CinemaScore.

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“Here’s further confirmation of Shah Rukh Khan’s status as reigning, benevolent King of Bollywood,” writes film critic Mike McCahill for the Guardian.

“Where his earlier film expounded on established formula, Khan’s latest stretches its arms wider and demonstrates flickers of idiosyncratic vision. ... A star vehicle that functions like a runaway train, Jawan covers a lot of ground in surprising fashion at full throttle — but that’s also a polite way of admitting it’s utterly all over the place.”

Opening in wide release next week are 20th Century Studios’ “A Haunting in Venice,” Blue Fox Entertainment’s “The Inventor” and Variance Films’ “Amerikatsi.”

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