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August 11, 2017

The battle of unexpected sequels: this weekend's box office predictions

Horror pic 'Annabelle: Creation' faces off against animated offering 'Nut Job 2'

“Annabelle: Creation”

Comic book superheroes, sci-fi adventures elderly couple’s personal collection of ghost stories?

When it comes to film franchises that third one seems out of place, but don’t tell that to the horror aficionados who’ve turned the tales of Ed and Lorraine Warren into their own kind of modestly-budgeted cinematic universe.

Back in the summer of 2013 Warner Brothers’ $20 million horror flick “The Conjuring” shocked Hollywood with a $41 million opening weekend. The 1970’s period piece eventually legged it out to $137 million domestically and $318 million worldwide.

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Given that success, WB fast-tracked a spin-off “Annabelle” which hit theaters the next year. Carrying just a $6.5 million budget, the film scored $37 million in its first weekend. It ended up with a $84M/$256M domestic/worldwide splitIn 2016, the inevitable sequel “The Conjuring 2” made back its $40 million production cost in the first three days. This installment finished with $102M domestic and $320M worldwide.

This weekend’s biggest release, “Annabelle: Creation,” is a prequel that appears to tick off all the boxes for fans of the horror genre. Made for just $15 million, the movie is also sitting at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes whereas the first “Annabelle” received a rancid 29%.

Tracking has the picture opening in the $30 million range.

Such a result would be a major victory for James Wan, the man who first got the ball rolling back in 2013 and continues to oversee all subsequent projects. Wan’s big break was the “Saw” films, making him responsible for perhaps the two most popular horror franchises of the 21st century (he also fit in the mega-blockbuster “Furious 7” too.)

In fact, Warner Bros. has so much faith in Wan that they gave him their coveted “Aquaman” solo film. If that 2018 release performs well enough the director/producer could become a made man over at WB, a studio that gives carte blanche to filmmakers like Christopher Nolan and Clint Eastwood, who’ve proven their worth.

Finally, another frightening film, “Don’t Breathe,” performed well in August last year and the box office has been particularly quiet lately. Therefore, I see “Annabelle: Creation” over-performing.

Prediction: $33 Million

“The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature”

You may not remember 2014’s “The Nut Job,” but Open Road Films certainly does.

That animated adventure remains the highest-grossing movie for the production company, co-owned by the nation’s two largest theatre chains (AMC and Regal), out-earning the likes of Liam Neeson vehicle “The Grey” and even Best Picture Oscar Winner Spotlight.” As a result, a cartoon revolving around stealing nuts that featured a cameo from the Gangnam Style guy is now getting a sequel.

Despite a 10% rating from Rotten Tomatoes, the original made $19M on its opening weekend and concluded with $64M in North America and $120M around the globe.

The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature” has yet to be seen by critics although it’s on pace for a $15 million total this weekend. Even though the poorly-received Emoji Movie” is the only competition for kids, I feel like parents would rather pass on the cinema this time.

Prediction: $10 Million

Nick Field is the former Managing Editor of PoliticsPa and is a regular PennLive Opinion contributor. A Bucks County native, he graduated from American University in Washington, D.C.