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.
"It's extraordinary, I want to do it all the time," said Jeff Goldstein, the studio's distribution chief.
In first place, New Line Cinema's horror spin-off "The Nun," based on a character introduced in the successful "Conjuring" franchise, opened with a series-best $53.5 million, according to figures from measurement firm ComScore.
The film, which cost about $22 million to make, came in well above analyst predictions of $36 million, a strong start for the fall movie season.
"I think it’s the subject matter," Goldstein said of the film's appeal. “… Nuns are scary."
He attributed the successful result in part to a large turnout by historically Catholic Latino audiences. "It was higher on this movie dramatically than the other movies in this series," Goldstein said. "We had a 35% share of Hispanic audiences as opposed to 'Conjuring' 1 which was 17%, 'Conjuring 2' was 28%, 'Annabelle,' 22% and 'Annabelle 2,' 26%."
"The Conjuring," released in 2013, and its spin-off films (including a sequel, the "Annabelle" films and now "The Nun") have proved highly profitable at the box office, grossing upwards of $1.2 billion so far. Loosely based on the investigations of demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren, the latest film expands on the history of a monster first introduced in "The Conjuring 2."
Despite the huge success of "The Nun," it is the second film in the series to receive a low score on review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes with a 28% "rotten" score. It also earned a negative C rating from audiences on CinemaScore. Despite this, Goldstein doesn’t rule out the possibility of a sequel. "I don't know for sure, but I would guess it, I would advocate for it," he said.
Two of the studio's other films landed among the top five: In second place, "Crazy Rich Asians" added $13.6 million in its fourth weekend, for a cumulative $136.2 million. And giant shark movie "The Meg," now in its fifth weekend, added $6 million for a cumulative $131.6 million, landing at No. 4.
Warner Bros.' winning streak comes less than a year after its big budget superhero teamup "Justice League" disappointed at the box office.
"There's no question it's always about content and if they're good movies," Goldstein said of this year’s contrasting result. "If we figure out a way to attract an audience that is interested in our content, then we'll be successful. And absent that, we won't be."
In third place, STX Entertainment's Jennifer Garner-led action thriller "Peppermint" earned $13.3 million.
Garner stars as a woman out for vengeance after her husband and daughter are gunned down right in front of her. The film, directed by "Taken" director Pierre Morel, came in within analyst predictions of $10 million to $15 million. It earned mixed reviews from audiences and critics with a B+ rating on CinemaScore and a 13% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Rounding out the top five, Sony's "Searching," now in its third weekend, added 802 theaters and $4.5 million for a cumulative $14.3 million, a killer hold for a film initially released on limited screens.
In limited release, Freestyle Releasing opened faith-based drama "God Bless the Broken Road" with $1.6 million, below analyst expectations of $2 million to $4 million. About a woman who struggles with faith after her husband is killed in Afghanistan, the film earned negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with a 13% "rotten" rating.
Next week, Fox opens the sci-fi action "The Predator," Lionsgate reveals the thriller "A Simple Favor," Pure Flix debuts the drama "Unbroken: Path to Redemption" and Studio 8 unveils the crime drama "White Boy Rick."