"Annabelle," the horror spinoff from last year's hit "The Conjuring," took in an estimated $15.5 million at the box office on Friday, edging out David Fincher's highly anticipated "Gone Girl," which did strong business with $13.2 million.
The two movies, both in their first weekend of release, are expected to have a close battle for the No. 1 domestic box-office spot, with some expecting "Annabelle" to maintain its lead. On Friday, "Gone Girl" saw a per-screen average gross of $4,380 across 3,014 screens, slightly lower than "Annabelle's" per-screen tally of about $4,867.
"Gone Girl," which is released by 20th Century Fox, is based on the bestselling Gillian Flynn novel about a man who becomes a suspect in the disappearance of his wife. Fincher's movie, starring Ben Affleck, has received wide critical acclaim and is generating significant awards buzz.
Rather less pedigreed, "Annabelle," released by Warner Bros. from its New Line Cinema division, is a low-budget fright fest with no big stars. The movie, which cost an estimated $6.5 million to make, has received mediocre to negative reviews.
The strength of "Annabelle" should come as welcome news for Warner Bros., which has seen a number of high-profile flops this year.
"This is an important movie for Warner," said Paul Dergarabedian of the box-office tracking firm Rentrak. He said that inexpensive titles like "Annabelle" typically make back their money in the first weekend of release, if not the first day, but usually see a box-office drop-off after that.
"It's the kind of movie that does well on video on-demand. It will have a long life beyond the theatrical window."
"The Equalizer," starring Denzel Washington, grossed $5.6 million on Friday to take the No. 3 spot. The Columbia Pictures release has so far taken in approximately $51.1 million domestically since opening last weekend in the No. 1 spot.
Fox's young-adult adaptation "The Maze Runner" took in an estimated $3.4 million on Friday to bring its domestic total to $65.4 million.