The weekend after Labor Day is considered to be the start of the fall moviegoing schedule and is usually filled with sequels and horror films in the weeks leading up to Halloween. This year’s post-Labor Day program is following this pattern, with the opening of two sequels, the horror flick THE NUN II and the comedy MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 3.
Warner Bros.’ THE NUN II easily won the weekend by earning $32.6M. The original THE NUN was a huge economic success, opening five years ago on this same weekend in 2018.
That film earned $53.8M in its debut and went on to earn $117.5M domestic and a stunning $365.6M worldwide. Powered by those results, the movie was wildly profitable considering its production budget of only $22M. This amounts to an out-of-this-world 16.6x ratio of total box office gross to production budget.
Even though THE NUN II in its opening weekend earned only 61% of the box office made by the original, it will still be profitable after a very manageable production budget of $35M-$40M. Two-thirds of the total box office for THE NUN came from international markets, and if the same ratio holds for THE NUN II, it will sell significantly in tickets in its opening three days than the film’s entire production budget.
It began in 2013 with THE CONJURING, written by Chad and Carey Hayes and directed by James Wan. THE CURSE OF LA LLORONA from 2019 is the only movie in the group that stands on its own, neither a sequel itself nor an original film that spawned a sequel.
The total box office for the previous eight CONJURING Universe movies is $2.1B worldwide, creating a huge fan base that any new movie can appeal to. In a somewhat more modest way, this dynamic is reminiscent of the built-in audience for a new superhero movie that emerges from the Marvel or DC Extended Universes.
THE CONJURING Universe of Horror Movies
- THE CONJURING (6/19/2013) – $320M Box Office, $20M Budget, 16x BO to Budget
- ANNABELLE (10/3/2014) – $258M Box Office, $7M Budget, 40x BO to Budget
- THE CONJURING 2 (6/10/2016) –$322M Box Office, $40M Budget, 8x BO to Budget
- ANNABELLE CREATION (8/11/2017) – $307M Box Office, $15M Budget, 20x BO to Budget
- THE NUN (9/7/2018) – $366M Box Office, $22M Budget, 17x BO to Budget
- THE CURSE OF LA LARONA (4/19/2019) – $123M Box Office, $9M Budget, 14x BO to Budget
- ANNABELLE COMES HOME (6/26/2019) – $231M Box Office, $30M Budget, 8x BO to Budget
- THE CONJURING: THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT (6/4/2021) – $206M Box Office, $39M Budget, 5x BO to Budget
- Total for Eight Prior Movies in the Series – $2,133M Box Office, $182M Budget, 12x BO to Budget.
Picking up five years after THE NUN left off, THE NUN II is set in France in the year 1956. A priest is burned to death under mysterious and supernatural circumstances, and evil is spreading throughout the community.
Good Sister Irene investigates and is forced to face off against Valak, the demon nun. Taissa Farmiga reprises her role as Sister Irene and is also the real-life younger sister of Valerie Farmiga who plays the female lead Lorraine Warren in all three THE CONJURING movies.
Warner Bros has done a masterful job creating this series of high-grossing, relatively low-budget, and very profitable films. In an era when it is seen as an achievement when a film earns a multiple of 2.5x comparing a film’s box office to its production budget, the average multiple for the eight earlier films in the CONJURING series is 12x. Based on this success, we expect to see many more movies from this franchise in the years ahead.
In its second weekend, THE EQUALIZER 3 finished in second place with a gross of $12.1M, a drop of 65% from its #1 finish last weekend. After 10 days, EQ3 has grossed $61.9M, which compares favorably to the two previous EQUALIZER films that stood at $64.1M and $64.2M at this same point in their release.
The consistent performance of this franchise and Denzel’s box office allure is reassuring, at a time when many sequels have fallen short of their earlier chapters. With a 94% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, we expect this version to continue to do well throughout the rest of September and the early weeks of October.
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 3 opened in third place with a gross of $10.0M. It’s unfair to expect that this sequel would achieve anything close to the original’s success, which opened quietly in 108 theatres on 4/18/2002 but went on to play for 51 weeks and earn a whopping $241.4M domestic.
It was the pinnacle of an “art house” success story, building its appeal over time and eventually crossing over into the mainstream market. Only this year was GREEK WEDDING surpassed by OPPENHEIMER as the highest-grossing film never to have finished in first place at the box office during its run.
MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2 opened on 3/25/2016 with $17.8M but failed to catch on, winding up with only $59.7M domestic, 1/4 the box office of the first picture. With this weekend’s opening of MBFGW3 earning only 56% of that amount, it seems that this romantic comedy series has run its course, and we are not likely to see any more chapters.
Nia Vardalos is the jack-of-all-trades creator of these movies, with credits as writer, director, and leading actress. This sequel follows the Portokalos family as they travel to a family reunion in Greece. Critics have sounded an exceptional note with a 27% score on Rotten Tomatoes, while audiences are only so-so in their opinion with a 73% score.
As the fall movie lineup thins out, we have entered a time in the year when a limited-release movie from India can break into the top five at the domestic box office. This weekend, the Indian title JAWAN from Yas Raj Films arrived in fourth place with $6.2M.
Opening on Thursday and playing at 827 locations, this movie has an average box office per location of $7,616, the second highest among all films in the top five. In other words, in the locations where it played, it was the second most important movie in the complex. Starring Shah Rukh Khan, a.k.a. “The King of Bollywood”, the high-octane thriller tells a classic good vs. evil story with a man and woman facing off against bad guys in order to right the wrongs of society.
The challenge for these titles is to maintain in subsequent weeks anything close to the success they achieve in their opening, as most fans show up to see it in the first few days. However, JAWAN may have a chance to draw audiences in subsequent weeks since it has been very well reviewed on Rotten Tomatoes by both critics and audiences, with a 93% and 97% score respectively. It would be an unusual success if it could rank among the top five box office performers for a second weekend.
The BARBIE party is still going on, with the top movie of 2023 earning fifth place this weekend with an additional $5.9M and a decline of 42% from last weekend. It’s the number one worldwide earner for 2023, having grossed over $1.4B.
All movies in U.S. and Canadian theatres this weekend earned $88.7M, compared with $44.1 M last year when THE BARBARIAN opened to $10.5M.
WHERE ARE WE AS OF 9/7
After 35 weeks, the year-to-date totals of the current year are 126% of the box office at this same point last year, and 87% compared to 2019.